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GM VP touts optimism during chamber speech

David Paterson, GM

David Paterson, GM Canada’s VP of corporate affairs, speaks to the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce about the company’s optimism for a future in the city.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It was all optimism from General Motors Canada as David Paterson, the company’s VP of corporate affairs, spoke with the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce.

“I have to say that at GM Canada, we feel a healthy amount of optimism about the prognosis for our future in Canada and here in Oshawa,” Paterson said. “Part of that is simple – our approach and our attitude at GM Canada, we frankly have no time for doom and gloom.

GM

The employee numbers at the Oshawa Assembly will be dropping by approximately 1,000 when the Chevrolet Camaro’s production shifts to Michigan later this year. David Paterson, GM Canada’s VP of corporate affairs, voiced his optimism that the plant will stay open.

We prefer a can-do approach.”

As 2016 approaches, so do GM’s restrictions on keeping production in Canada. Paterson acknowledged this might have some communities like Oshawa nervous.

“We’re working on putting a business case together,” he said. “We’re doing it with our partners and we’ve got another year or so until we’re in the decision window on things like that. But at the moment, with a lower Canadian dollar and great partnerships, we’re optimistic.”

Paterson stressed that GM likes to “build where they sell” and of the 140 countries GM currently sells to, Canada is fifth on the list. For the month of June, sales of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models were all up.

During his speech to the chamber, Paterson addressed GM’s future and the shift toward the “connected car,” vehicles that integrate with smartphones and other devices.

The shift has led to the creation of 100 jobs in the engineering division at GM as they look to scoop up the top software coding experts in the country.

However, the 100 additions are only a small fraction of the thousands of jobs that have been lost from the sector in recent years. As well, 1,000 more jobs will be removed from the Oshawa Assembly in November when the production of the Chevy Camaro moves south.

However, Paterson says these jobs are not technically lost.

“The good news is we haven’t lost any jobs,” he said while speaking to the media after his speech. Paterson explains workers were provided with generous retirement packages, which avoided layoffs.

“By having people retire, we were able to do it without having to do any layoffs,” he said.

When pressed on the issue that while workers may not have been laid off, the community has still lost a job, Paterson labeled the question as more doom and gloom.

“We don’t accept this doom and gloom idea that we’ve suddenly lost those jobs forever. We take the approach that we’re going to go out and be the best,” he said.

For the Chamber’s CEO and general manager Bob Malcolmson, the message from GM was a positive one.

“It’s encouraging to hear that General Motors is planning for the future,” he says. “I think it’s marvelous and GM is here to stay, that’s what I got out of it.”