January 17, 2008

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street, Langevin Block
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister:

I am writing you today concerning your government’s decision to not act on the Ford Motor Company’s offer to re-open the Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ontario. Ford proposes to produce a new product if the federal and provincial governments combined would provide $60 million in assistance.

This missed opportunity echoes that of the Sprinter Van plant decision in 2003 that resulted in a serious loss to Windsor and Canada due to inaction by the then federal Liberal government. The similarity of these two events is not surprising, even though it means devastating consequences for the communities involved. The present Liberal opposition has chosen to go along with the flawed approach your government champions—one that green lights more tax cuts to profitable corporations while abandoning any attempt at a national auto strategy.

The result has been that during the period of 2002 to 2006, approximately 140,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Ontario alone. In places such as Windsor, Ontario, which is the automotive centre of Canada, 35 percent of all manufacturing jobs were lost during the same period. For the first time in 18 years, Canada has become a net importer of automotive products down from a record surplus of $15 billion in 1999. Canada has also fallen from being the fourth largest Auto assembler in the world to the tenth.

This misguided approach was wrong then and it is wrong now. The Windsor plant needs a decision in the next few weeks and the pretence of trying to tie any funding of the manufacturing sector to a potential line item in the February budget just adds insult to injury for the hardworking residents of Windsor. No one would be distracted by such an illusion.

I urge you Prime Minister to reconsider this decision. The funding from the federal government would represent only ten per cent of the total investment of $300 million.

Canada needs a commitment to a national auto policy that encourages innovation and investment in the leading edge of design and engineering of the greener technologies of today and tomorrow. Keeping auto jobs and plants like these in Canada is central to being able to do this.

Such a comprehensive policy is what most other countries have done or are doing. This week the leadership in the auto sector has acknowledged that this is the case. It is time to establish a made-in Canada solution and not follow the failures of the past.

This opportunity to manufacture an environmentally, more efficient engine at a long- established facility is the chance to let the global automotive community know, that Canada is open for business.


Honourable Jack Layton, P.C., M.P.
Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada