By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
With ongoing trade issues and uncertainly over auto tariffs hitting the industry, Oshawa MPP Jennifer French is calling on the government to take action to plan for the future of one of North America’s core industries.
French says that the government is simply not making the auto sector a priority, most recently shown in the removal of Ontario’s trade representative in Washington. It’s unclear whether Premier Doug Ford intents to refill the position.
“It doesn’t bode well,” French says.
With the threat of a 25 per cent tariff on auto imports looming from President Donald Trump, French says the government needs to be preparing for a variety of outcomes. It’s not the first time she’s pursued this avenue either.
“I find I’m saying the same things I was saying with the last government, which is we need a comprehensive auto strategy, we have needed one for a long time, we have pushed for one,” she says. “We can’t predict what President Trump may or may not do when it comes to the tariffs, or really when it comes to other trade and relationship decisions that he’s going to make or statements he’s going to make, but I think that if we were to ensure that this government was working with the automotive and auto parts industry, and that we ensure that we had plan, then when we have the opportunity to advocate, when we have the opportunity to take a stand, that we do.”
With that said, Ontario’s trade minister Jim Wilson travelled to Washington earlier this month for meetings on the auto sector, during which he was expected to stress the benefits of working with Ontario’s auto industry.
However, for French she says that words don’t go far enough.
“When we are hearing the minister, who was in Washington and he assures us that automotive is priority, I want to know what that priority looks like, I want to know who is representing our interests if we’ve fired our trade representative…how do we know that automotive really is a priority, because the ‘just trust us’ is not going to cut it.”
Moving forward, French says as part of a new strategy the government should be working to secure exemptions for the auto industry to any tariffs, and should focusing on protecting jobs in the province.
“I want to see that my government is defending, is protecting, is fighting for a permanent exemption on behalf of the workers and families in this industry,” she says. “There are a lot of unknowns, but we have to have various strategies ready to go, we have to work with industry.”