Latest News

Unifor report looks at potential plant closure

Thousands of jobs lost, billions of dollars gone from economy if assembly shuts its doors

Oshawa Car Assembly PlantBy Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

A future without the Oshawa Assembly would see thousands of jobs gone and billions of dollars erased from the Canadian economy.

That’s according to a Centre for Spatial Economics study commissioned by Unifor, the union that represents the workers at the General Motors production facility in Oshawa.

According to the report, there would be the immediate reaction felt here in Oshawa – a direct loss of approximately 4,100 jobs which produce 325,000 passenger vehicles and $1.1 billion toward the country’s GDP.

However, the potential closure of the plant would go well beyond Oshawa’s borders.

“The closure of the Oshawa facility would constitute an important negative shock to the Canadian economy felt most acutely, of course, in Ontario,” the report reads of a scenario where the plant closes this year. “By 2017, two years after the closure, Ontario’s GDP is up to $5.7 billion lower.”

The report adds that the national GDP would go down, still being lower than current levels for as long as six years following the plant’s closure.

Job losses would hit the rest of the province as well, the report continues, saying the province stands to lose between 26,000 and 28,000 by 2018.

“The federal and Ontario governments also experience a substantial loss of income arising from the closure, with both experiencing a permanent loss of revenues and an increase in their combined deficits of almost $1 billion a year,” the report continues. “This reflects the loss of tax revenues to both levels of government, resulting from the direct and indirect decline in incomes throughout the economy.”

It is because of the possible repercussions of job loss that politicians at both the provincial and federal level are speaking out on how important it is that the doors of the Oshawa Assembly stay open.

“I don’t think there were any surprises for the folks at home,” says Oshawa MPP Jennifer French of the Unifor-commissioned report. “People in Oshawa know that GM is part of our fabric and it’s not just about GM but also about the businesses and parts of the community that are connected to that. We already know, intuitively, that there would be a huge impact if we were to ever lose GM.”

French adds that she would like to see Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal government be more involved in keeping GM production going in Oshawa.

“This report really puts it in really clear numbers in front of the government that this is a really big deal. The potential loss here would be disastrous but not just for this community, but for the province as a whole and the country, so what are they going to do about it?” she says. “We would hope that the government really does prioritize taking action and taking a stand and getting involved.”

That action, French says, would be the creation of an automotive strategy.

“It really does need to take all players into account and all parts and pieces into account. The easy example of one-stop shopping or a one-window experience…it should be easier to do business here. The federal government, the provincial and the municipal, they should all be in the same room and on the same page when it comes to doing business here.”

Calling on all levels of government to get on the same page is an attitude shared by the federal face of Oshawa on Parliament Hill, saying the activities of the Wynne government have him worried

“When you compare province to state, I am somewhat concerned about that,” Colin Carrie, the MP for Oshawa, tells The Oshawa Express. “Ontario’s electricity rates are an issue for businesses…I believe we have the highest industrial rates in North America.”

Carrie went on to say that the high electricity rates – along with potential carbon taxes and higher payroll taxes as a result of a proposed provincial pension plan – could scare away GM from continuing to work in Oshawa.

“These are the things that concern me because if we have all these extra charges for business and (other jurisdictions with automotive production) don’t, no matter what the federal government does, what do you think that does to our competitiveness?” Carrie says. “Going forward, we have to make sure that Ontario and these policies don’t allow us to become an uncompetitive jurisdiction compared to the areas that we are competing with.”