December 15, 2008

Harper must take steps now and not wait for the US

WINDSOR, ON—Today, NDP Industry and Automotive Critic Brian Masse M.P. (Windsor West) wrote Prime Minister Stephen Harper thanking him for giving some indication that assistance for the auto industry will be available but demanded immediate action on the file by outlining specific tasks the government must undertake.

As part of a multi-pronged approach, Masse declared that “the government of Canada should be prepared to act regardless of what the present US administration decides is their policy. While I encourage the Harper government to pursue a stronger North American engagement on automotive policy and trade strategy we have to take the following actions as a sovereign nation. The government must reconvene CAPC (Canadian Auto Partnership Council) immediately and hold talks with the tool, die, and mould industry to ensure their interests are protected in any package that is developed. Strike a Royal Commission on automotive trade strategy that will provide analysis and competitive options to correct the imbalance that has developed through negligence and policy absence. In addition, an examination of legacy burdens and potential solutions will be part of the panel’s mandate.”

The Minister of Industry on Friday December 12 stated that up to $ 3.4 billion in assistance would be available but was dependent upon initiatives of Bush administration. Without US involvement there would be no Canadian response was the understanding from the statement.

“We cannot depend on the actions of one person in another country to protect our jobs and auto industry. Leadership is expressing a willingness to seek solutions in collaboration but the courage and conviction to move forward as others decide their own fate,” Masse exclaimed.

December 15, 2008
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I am writing you today about the current state of the Canadian automotive industry and the Minister of Industry’s recent announcement on Friday December 12, 2008. First, I would like to thank you for publicly acknowledging that the industry requires action, however the lack of a written document outlining the specific commitments and particular details has created a great deal of concern for those whose lives are dependent upon the health of this sector.

It is noteworthy that despite a public statement of the potential use of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds for financial assistance the Industry Canada website has no information on this subject nor even the text of the Minister’s press conference. Provided this limited information, I am appreciative that we heard from the Minister but equally concerned with the approach your government has taken. The fixation with making any action the government takes dependent on the United States administration’s initiative is a significant departure from Canada reassuring its own citizens that there will be support for an automotive policy in this country. I agree with the attempt to assist in a North American solution, however your position to wait and see if the US government acts is not the leadership this file requires. It is necessary that Canada signals it will move independently to support the entire automotive supply chain in this country regardless of Presidential decisions.

It is incumbent upon the Canadian government to examine the automotive marketplace, its constituent members and dynamics, and to construct a comprehensive approach that would ensure the long term vibrancy and innovation that our industry has historically been known for. Whether in conjunction with the United States or not these following actions must be taken:

1. Request the Minister of Finance to engage with the financial sector and the domestic automotive sector to establish more low-cost and accessible loans for the purchase of domestic, or if partnered with the United States, North American vehicles

2. Immediately reconvene the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council (CAPC) to renew this structure that has been dormant under your administration

3. Hold immediate independent consultations with the tool, die, mould and aftermarket industries to obtain their analysis and ensure their interests and viability is guaranteed in any proposed comprehensive package for the sector

4. Establish an independent Royal Commission or advisory panel on automotive trade strategy that will provide analysis of other countries’ public sector supports and outline potential competitive options that Canada can pursue. In addition, a comprehensive examination of the domestic manufacturers’ legacy burdens, environmental transformation, and the potential initiation of ‘extended producer responsibility’ (auto recycling) must be included in the commission’s or panel’s mandate.

Thank you in advance for your immediate consideration to my request.

Thousands of Canadians are counting on your government to take the necessary steps to protect this important Canadian industry. I look forward to your prompt response.

Yours truly,

Brian Masse MP
Windsor West
NDP Industry and Automotive Critic

CC: Minister of Industry, Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Finance, Honourable Jim Flaherty
Joe Comartin M.P. (Windsor Tecumseh)
Mayor Eddie Francis, City of Windsor