Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak speaks at a plastics factory in Cobourg, Ont., on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press

As the June 12 election date creeps closer, the leaders of Ontario's Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties are at odds over the best strategy to bolster the province's precarious auto sector.

Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne says injecting money into the auto industry is the only way to stimulate the sector, while the Conservatives are arguing lower taxes would be more effective.

Making stops at a manufacturing factory in Windsor, Ont., and a Toyota assembly plant in Cambridge, Ont., Ms. Wynne hammered at the contrast between her plan and that of her opponent.

Story continues below advertisement

"In terms of the choices in front of the people of Ontario, I think they're very stark," the Liberal Leader said, later telling reporters that PC Leader Tim Hudak would "destroy the auto industry."

Her announcement was an example of Ms. Wynne's strategy to position her party as the polar opposite of the PCs. While the Liberals want to inject money to stimulate the sector – including a 10-year, $2.5-billion jobs and prosperity fund – the PC party argues that lower taxes across the board would do more good than one-off, hefty investments.

Ms. Wynne promoted her party's previous investments in the auto sector, such as a $70.9-million contribution to Ford's Oakville assembly plant in 2013, which she said helped save 2,800 jobs.

But the province's auto sector has also been under strain as companies decide to locate new plants in more affordable areas such as Mexico and Tennessee, while existing plants face an uncertain future.

Earlier this year, Chrysler Group LLC backed out of negotiations with the provincial and federal governments to support expanding its operations, including a minivan plant in Windsor. Though the company has committed to staying put for the time being, its decision not to take the public money means the company is free to pick up and leave at a moment's notice.

In Oshawa, General Motors of Canada has plans to close one of its assembly plants in 2016.

The PC party argues that its plan would help keep jobs in Ontario for the long run, without government spending. On Wednesday, Mr. Hudak criticized Ms. Wynne's announcement, saying government "handouts" just "reward the well-connected." He did not respond to a question about automotive sector bailouts helping to preserve jobs in the province.

Story continues below advertisement

Instead, Mr. Hudak reiterated his pledge that lowering taxes and hydro costs would bolster the manufacturing industry in Ontario.

Rising energy costs put the province at risk of losing manufacturing to other markets, Mr. Hudak said.

"When energy keeps going higher and higher and higher under Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, eventually they're going to pull the plug, and they'll move it to the States," he said.

But neither strategy is specific enough to be hailed as a panacea for the auto sector, according to Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor with the business economics and public policy group at the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business.

While he said he suspects some of Ms. Wynne's $2.5-billion jobs grant would make it to the auto industry, it won't be the only recipient. As for Mr. Hudak's tactics, Mr. Moffatt questioned whether they would have much effect at all.

"There's no evidence auto manufacturers' decision on where to put a plant is made or broken on hydro costs. It's more labour costs and grants," he said.

Story continues below advertisement

New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath has adopted roughly the same position as Ms. Wynne: She said Ontario must be willing to offer financial incentives to auto companies and other manufacturers to prevent them going to other jurisdictions.

"We … have to make sure we're providing the partnerships necessary to keep the investment here and to grow the investment here," she said Wednesday, while campaigning in Brampton, Ont. "That does mean sitting down with these companies and getting a sense of what other jurisdictions are offering in terms of incentives and what Ontario can offer."

Editor's Note: GM is not closing an Oshawa plant this summer. This story has been corrected.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies