Greg Layson, Automotive News Canada
January 12, 2021
One of the auto industry’s most important federal government liaisons is leaving his post.
Navdeep Bains, stepped down as innovation minister Tuesday and does not intend to run again in the next federal election, whenever it’s held.
In a video message posted Tuesday morning, Bains said that after six elections, he wants to spend more time with his family.
“They have sacrificed so much over the last 17 years. This last year has been hard on families,” says the MP from Mississauga, Ont. “My daughters, who are in Grade 5 and Grade 8, have needed me more in the last year and I’ve needed them, too. It’s time for me to put my family first, and I couldn’t be happier about it.”
Bains is one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s longest serving cabinet ministers. Canada’s auto industry was a large part of his portfolio.
He was instrumental in creating the Strategic Innovation Fund, the renegotiation of NAFTA, the development of the Innovation Superclusters Initiative as well as having a hand in finding millions of government subsidies for automakers and suppliers.
“The minister served his post admirably throughout the NAFTA renegotiations and especially as a Canada advocate with automakers around the world,” Flavio Volpe, the head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, said in a statement. “He raised the bar for this role and portfolio to heights that would have surprised me beforehand. We wish him the very best, I’m not sure he left anything on the table.”
Brian Kingston, head of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, which speaks collectively for the Detroit Three in Canada, publicly thanks Bains in a Twitter post.
In a statement, and citing, in part, the nearly $5 billion the Detroit Three has committed to its Canadian operations, Kingston said Bains’ “leadership on the innovation and economic agenda made a real difference that will benefit Canadians for years to come.”
And while many see Bains as a champion for the industry, he was no pushover, says David Adams, head of the Global Automakers of Canada.
“He was a pretty strong industry advocate, but having said that, he wasn’t beyond challenging the industry, as well,” Adams said.
Bains worked as a revenue and costing analyst at Ford Motor Co. from 2000 until 2004, when he was first elected to federal office.
“He understood the industry, coming from Ford,” Adams said. “He was a minister during this interesting time of transition as we start to decarbonize transportation and move from traditional ICE vehicles to electric vehicles.”
Adams said Bains is “largely responsible” for the recent investment in the Detroit Three’s Ontario assembly plants.
“He’s always been a voice of reason and an advocate,” Adams said. “It will be hard to replace him.”
In the first virtual swearing-in ceremony in Canadian history, Francois-Philippe Champagne on Tuesday shed his title as foreign minister to take up Bains’ former role, while ex-transport minister Marc Garneau moved into Champagne’s old job.
“i think Mr. Champagne, from the the dealings I’ve had with him, seems like a pragmatic and thoughtful guy who understands what you tell him,” Adams said. “But. I don’t think he’s beyond challenging people to do more, too.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what someone else is like in the role.”
Frank Voss, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, praised Bains’ accessibility.
“Minister Bains has been a strong supporter of developing our automotive production base in Canada and has always had an open door — and an open ear — for industry,” Voss said in a statement. “We are looking forward to continuing that relationship with Minister Champagne and wish him the very best in his new role.”
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