TORONTO and OTTAWA, Feb. 26 /CNW/ - 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
"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 fund.
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
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.
For further information:
For further information: please contact CAW Communications, Shannon
Devine, (cell) (416) 302-1699; or Angelo DiCaro, (cell) (416) 606-6311