|CAW Post-Budget release: Federal auto fund falls far short, CAW President says
|CAW President Buzz Hargrove commended the federal government for recognizing the importance of the auto industry to the overall Canadian economy, but
condemned the small amount of funding allocated to the auto sector as “grossly inadequate.”
“The announcement of $250 million over five years for the auto industry is a baby step in the right direction, but much more is needed,” said Hargrove. He
added that the CAW will need to study how the money will be distributed and how producers can qualify. It is not clear if projects like the proposed Ford Engine
plant in Windsor will qualify under the new fund’s rules.
“This money should be the first part of a much bigger long term automotive strategy, not a one-time gesture to rally voters,” Hargrove said.
Since the Harper Conservatives took office in 2005, the CAW has been pressuring the government to support the auto industry and the workers it employs.
Without this constant pressure, likely nothing would have materialized, said Hargrove.
Canada’s manufacturing industry has lost over 350,000 well-paying jobs since 2002. The auto industry has lost about 25,000 jobs.
Hargrove pointed out that Canada still exports more automotive products than petroleum, and stressed that a federal auto strategy must also address the one-
way surge in imports from offshore that is devastating North American auto jobs. He also argued that blanket corporate tax cuts have had no visible impact at
all on business investment spending, which has remained stagnant in Canada despite record business profits and falling business taxes.
Hargrove also welcomed the budget’s limited extension of accelerated depreciation provisions for machinery and equipment investments by business, but
likewise noted that measure alone is “a sadly inadequate response” to the historic crisis facing manufacturing.
“Between this budget and his October statement, Mr. Flaherty has announced $30 billion worth of initiatives. Out of all that, he could only find $50 million per
year for Canada’s most important export industry,” said Hargrove. “That’s an incredible failure.”
Hargrove said Flaherty should have taken $1 billion out of the $10 billion 2007 surplus to establish a genuine auto investment fund, matching Ontario’s similar
Hargrove endorsed the budget’s announcement that the controversial eco-AUTO rebate program will expire after the current model year. That program
imposed penalties on several North American-made vehicles, and subsidized imports.
The CAW plans to focus on highlighting the manufacturing crisis in swing Ontario ridings in any future federal election.
The Harper government also squandered an important opportunity to make necessary reform to the EI system so that it better serves unemployed workers.
The CAW is demanding an increase in the benefit rate to at least 60 per cent of normal earnings, an increase in the maximum benefit duration to 50 weeks and
a reduction in the qualifying period to 360 hours worked for entry level EI benefits, anywhere in Canada.
“There is no better way for Ottawa to soften the blow of recession than by expanding access to Employment Insurance benefits for Canada’s most vulnerable
workers,” Hargrove concluded.
The CAW denounced the federal government’s failure to address issues of equality –specifically that of women and First Nations people. For the last three
budgets, the Harper Tory government has reneged on childcare funding and the universal childcare program that was close at hand before the Conservative
government came into power.
“Leading up to the 2005 election, Harper promised to improve women’s equality, a supposed goal his government has failed miserably at,” said Julie White,
CAW Director of Women’s Programs.
The federal government had every opportunity to restore the $3.7 billion it removed from the early learning and childcare agreements with the provinces and
restore and top up funding to the Status of Women, yet it did neither of these things, said White. Currently, 12 of the 16 regional Status of Women offices are
closed due to lack of funds.
The CAW also demands that the federal government to recognize its obligations to First Nations people and live up to the Kelowna Accord, the $5 billion fund to
address poverty for First Nations that it withdrew shortly after taking office.
Source: CAW NewsNow