The federal and Ontario governments are announcing a multimillion-dollar loan and grant package to Toyota on Friday morning to upgrade its Cambridge and Woodstock plants, an announcement that was suddenly moved up by a week on Ottawa's insistence, according to a well-placed provincial source.
Initially, the event was locked in for Aug. 7, but Ontario officials scrambled when they received a call late Wednesday afternoon from the federal Industry Minister's office, asking that the announcement had to be moved up quickly. It is now planned for 9 a.m. on Friday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to call an election as early as Sunday or Monday. Moving up the Toyota announcement is another sign he is poised to drop the writ for the Oct. 19 election sooner rather than later.
Toyota is investing $421-million in expansion and upgrades. The Ontario government is giving the company a $42-million grant, and the federal government is providing a repayable $58-million loan.
This will secure the 8,000 jobs that are already part of Toyota's Ontario operations. In addition, 25 highly skilled jobs will be created.
The announcement is being made at the Cambridge plant, which is in the riding of Conservative MP Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario).
The provincial source said the federal government is trying to "expedite" all of its announcements in advance of the expected election call. "Obviously everything is breaking down in advance of this weekend," the source said. "They tried to unilaterally announce this one too and we had to rush to get a provincial representative there on Friday."
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had planned to go to the Aug. 7 announcement. It is a major event for Ontario, and usually premiers attend. However, the quick change of dates means that Ontario now will be represented by Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid.
The provincial and federal governments have a good relationship on the auto file, according to the source.
But, in the past few weeks, the federal government has been making big funding announcements unilaterally, mostly on infrastructure projects. Last week – and for the second time in a month – the Conservative government bypassed the Ontario government's infrastructure project wish list.
It gave $18.4-million to a project for Centennial College that was in a Tory MP's riding and not on the list that the Ontario government submitted; it also provided $26.9-million to a new research building at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, which is located in Durham Region, where three Tory-held ridings converge.
Ms. Wynne criticized Mr. Harper and his government for their approach. There is tension between the Liberal Premier and Conservative Prime Minister on a number of files, especially on pensions and infrastructure projects.
Right now, there are 18 approved projects, worth $33.4-million, under the federal government's Small Communities Fund (another infrastructure partnership fund between the provincial and federal governments).
However, the province cannot get dates for announcements, according to the source. There is concern, again, that the Conservative government – on the eve of an election call – will announce these without including the provincial government.
Toyota's investment will include a new metal stamping line at the Woodstock plant, which will double productivity and capacity. The Cambridge plant will be upgraded to "prepare the facility to produce the next-generation Lexus vehicles," the source said.