Brian Lilley, Toronto Sun
June 13, 2019

Telling the world that Ontario is open for business, as the signs now say, is an easy thing for politicians to do. Actually delivering is something else.

The Ford government has been accused of latching onto a slogan, of sending mixed signals to the business community by threatening to rip up the Beer Store contract, but one key industry for the province is buzzing about the moves being made at Queen’s Park.

I’m talking about the auto industry.

Economic Development Minister Todd Smith stood before the annual convention of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association on Wednesday and told them ways the government was moving on their issues.

Smith told the audience in Windsor that the Ford government was committed to rolling back red tape in a number of areas.

One of them is exempting auto plants from workplace training that already is provided by the company. Currently, rules that force a duplication of training cost the industry an estimated $2.5 million a year.

That’s one of many regulations that don’t make sense anymore being rolled back.

Then there is one of the hangovers from the previous government that has hurt the budgets of everyday citizens and scared away business: High electricity costs.

“Our government is committed to finding electricity pricing solutions that work for you,” Smith said.

The Ford government is looking at bringing in an industrial electricity price that will make Ontario competitive again.

All of this is music to the ears of Flavio Volpe, the head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association.

“What the minister announced is exactly what we hoped for,” Volpe told me during a quick break from his annual conference.

Volpe said the government has listened to the concerns of industry, especially on the sorts of regulations and costs that have driven investment away from Ontario.

“It’s not like no one has invested they haven’t invested in us,” Volpe said.

So while Ontario used to be a leader in auto manufacturing investment, new plants over the last decade or so have ended up in Mexico or the American southeast.

Volpe said that the methodical changes by the Ford government is what the province needs to turn things around.

One of the things that really excites Volpe is the promise by the provincial government to work with municipalities to identify sites that could become the future home of an auto assembly plant.

“I really like the fact that this government has committed to a super site process,” Volpe told me.

As part of the government’s Driving Prosperity auto strategy, the province has promised to work with municipalities to identify parcels of land that could become home to an auto manufacturing facility that the province could then market to potential investors.

So far, Edwardsburgh Cardinal in Eastern Ontario has expressed interest with a massive site at the junction of Hwys. 401 and 416. Other municipalities that have come forward include the Township of Cavan Monaghan, near Peterborough, the City of London, the Town of Tecumseh and St. Clair Township, near Windsor.

Volpe said the province needs to focus not just on the Big Three from Detroit or the Japanese automakers but also those from India, France and China looking to set up shop in North America.

Each new assembly plant is worth $3 billion-$4 billion in new parts contracts each year, Volpe said.

And with those contracts come good paying jobs and an improved economy.

Let’s hope that the open-for-business message turns out to be real and breaks through to the international market.



Via: Toronto Sun