Reviving the automotive industry, an electoral strategy?

Nestled in the southwest corner of the province, with the United States as a backdrop, the city of Windsor is synonymous with the automobile.

The city has seen better days, when industrial jobs numbered in the tens of thousands. The region has gone through several crises since then, but resilience here is in people’s DNA.

Too many jobs have been lost here in Windsor. »

a quote from Denis Desaulniers, employee of the manufacturer Stellantis

Denis Desaulniers talks about the Chrysler Pacifica with passion. He knows all the features of the minivan, which is no wonder, since he works on the assembly line. It’s a solid car, not like the other minivans we’ve built before. When you drive it’s like floating on airlaunches Denis, proudly.

Denis Desaulniers is responsible for delivering parts for the assembly of doors at Chrysler Pacifica in Windsor.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Pacifica sales, however, were disappointing. Manufacturer Stellantis has slowed production and further layoffs are being considered until the summer. In his 28-year career, Denis has become accustomed to the vagaries of the automotive industry, but this time he admits that the region needs a breath of fresh air.

Electric cars have to arrive to bring us back to our three shifts. It is urgent, because everyone wants to work. »

a quote from Denis Desaulniers

In late March, the Ford government announced with great fanfare the arrival of a new battery factory for electric vehicles. The project piloted by electronics giant LG and manufacturer Stellantis is valued at 5 billion dollars. The province’s financial contribution, like that of Ottawa, was not disclosed.

Premier Doug Ford in the pulpit, during an investment announcement for the automotive sector.

Prime Minister Doug Ford did not confirm the amount awarded to LG and Stellantis to support the installation of a battery factory in Windsor.

Photo: (Mike Evans/CBC)

With the 2,500 new jobs to be created, the new factory could become the symbol of Windsor’s renovation. The first chapter of a green transition for the city.

An assembly line.

The Chrysler Pacifica is assembled in Windsor, Ontario.

Photo: Associated Press/Carlos Osorio

In early May, the province handed another check to Stellantis, this time to support the modernization of its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants. Recent government announcements to support and stimulate the auto industry give hope to workers like Denis.

The government finally sees the importance of the automobile sector in Canada. ‘Cause I think we’ve been forgotten for too many yearshe explains.

Provincial funding for the auto sector announced before the start of the elections :

  • $131 million to Honda Canada (announced March 16),

  • unknown value for the LG-Stelantis plant (announced March 23),

  • $259 million to GM Canada (announced April 4),

  • $513 million for the modernization of the Stellantis factories (announced May 2).

An advantage for the next generation of workers

It’s oral presentation day at St. Clair College. Graduation is approaching for third year students of the Automotive Product Design program.

The timing of a new battery factory in Windsor couldn’t be better for this next generation of workers.

Automotive Product Design students work on engines in a lab classroom at St.  Clair College.

Automotive Product Design students work on engines in a lab classroom at St. Clair College.

Photo: Radio-Canada

There are many jobs that will soon be available in Windsor. If the right opportunity arises, I will definitely take it.answers Luke Kelly. It will lift our spirits and we look forward to continuing to be the leaders in the automotive industry, which we always have been.adds his classmate Matthew Penner.

Professor Dale Haggith in a mechanical laboratory at St.  Clair College.

Professor Dale Haggith primarily teaches concepts related to combustion engines, but his department at St. Clair College wants to offer a new program dedicated to the electric car.

Photo: Radio-Canada

The administration is studying the possibility of launching a new course to better prepare its students for the electric car market.

We are considering offering a new program dedicated not only to electric vehicles, but also to battery technology, energy storage and distribution.explains the coordinator, Dale Haggith.

Infrastructure and co.

It’s a busy morning at Firestone Garage in downtown Windsor. Marc Thibert is called in as backup to fix a whimsical engine.

I have petrol and diesel engines. I know how to fix this. But electric is a little different, admits the mechanic. However, Mr. Thibert has no illusions: in a few years he will have to relearn his craft.

Marc Thibert is among the cars in the Firestone garage in Windsor.

Marc Thibert would like a boost from the province so his garage can offer more services for electric vehicles.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Like many others, his garage does not specialize in electric vehicles. Employees do not have the necessary knowledge or equipment. The election campaign is therefore the perfect opportunity for parties to get involved beyond battery and car manufacturing. For example, Thibert hopes initiatives that can help companies like his, which will also have to adapt to the electric transition.

I know my boss is finding ways to train us, to do all this, to change gear. »

a quote from Marc Thibert, Manager, Firestone Windsor Garage

It’s no secret that Councilman Kieran McKenzie is an NDP supporter.

Councilman Kieran McKenzie.

Councilman Kieran McKenzie.

Photo: Radio-Canada

But he welcomes and encourages any effort, on all sides, to ease the transition to an electric car world.

Achieving this will require an efficient and affordable network of charging stations and investment to support this sector. He invites politicians to take advantage of the ball in the jump.

An electric car in a parking lot with charging station in Windsor.

According to several experts, infrastructure development is an important factor in encouraging the increasing use of electric vehicles.

Photo: Radio-Canada

The challenge before us now is infrastructure. As a councilor, I am in contact with all the people who want to be electedsays the District 9 Councilor.

Too little, too late

In Windsor, recent investments in the auto industry are being welcomed as a lifeline. Everyone will tell you that. However, another observation seems to be unanimous: the Ford administration has been dragging its feet in recent years.

Doug Ford in an ad in the Windsor-Essex area.

Doug Ford in an ad in the Windsor-Essex area.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Geoff Robins

Could have come much soonerlaunches Denis Desaulniers. We could have moved everyone a little faster. Governments certainly, but perhaps also industryalso believes Kieran McKenzie.

Also noteworthy is the elimination of the provincial discount for the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles. In 2018, the Ford government’s decision caused sales to plummet in Ontario and did not affect the Chrysler Pacifica’s backlog. With the exception of progressive conservatives, all major political parties are proposing to return discounts.

A promotional photo of a Chrysler Pacifica.

Chrysler offers a combustion version and a hybrid version of the Chrysler Pacifica.

Photo: FCA

As Windsor prepares for the next chapter in its industrial history, government support will be essential to ensure the transition.

I haven’t decided yet, I’m still lookingadmits student Matthew Penner, when asked which party will get his vote.

Voters want to hear leaders share their vision for the automotive sector before they vote. Many are hoping for more promises that could fuel hope for a healthier industry.

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