The auto industry and the Ontario government are putting a new spin on an old slogan to make sure Canadian interests are protected in North American free-trade agreement renegotiations and other changes the Trump administration is proposing on trade.
In the 1950s, the slogan out of Detroit was that what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Today, the spin is what's good for Canada is good for the United States.
That message emerged Friday after Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met in Toronto with senior auto industry executives and a key labour leader to discuss how the industry, the province and the federal government should try to influence the NAFTA negotiations.
"Our efforts will be to continue to sew the seeds of enlightened self-interest in our colleagues to the south, so they are aware of the impact of things like a border adjustment tax and others to their competitiveness and to jobs in the U.S.," Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid told reporters after the meeting.
"They are very aware, for the most part, that Ontario is their No. 1 international customer," Mr. Duguid said of such states as Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. "We're crucial to their economic vitality and we're crucial to jobs in the U.S."
Magna International Inc. chief executive officer Don Walker spun the old slogan almost word for word after the meeting.
"I honestly think that what's best for Canada is probably what's best for the U.S. as well," Mr. Walker said.
It's not clear yet what is best for Canada, since the U.S. administration has not yet officially notified the Canadian and Mexican governments that it wants to renegotiate NAFTA. Nor has it outlined whether it wants a border adjustment tax or a change in North American content rules that would require a minimum percentage of U.S. parts in U.S.-made vehicles.
But industry executives agree that a border adjustment tax that applies to Canadian exports would likely harm vehicle exports and the parts industry, which employs more than 71,000 people in this country, most of them in Ontario.
"I'm very much against a border adjustment tax," said Rob Wildeboer, executive chairman of Martinrea International Inc., which, like Magna, is based in the Greater Toronto Area, but is a global parts company with operations in the United States and Mexico.
There is a lot at stake when it comes to a border tax. U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed a 35-per-cent levy, while Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan is pushing a 20-per-cent tax.
Research done for the Automotive Policy Research Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton shows that that 97 per cent of the $63-billion worth of vehicles exported last year went to the United States. About 90 per cent of $21-billion in parts exports went to U.S. assembly plants.
The industry executives also support a continuation of NAFTA because it is effectively the continental operating system for the industry.
Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, which represents workers at the Canadian assembly plants operated by the Detroit Three auto makers, said he welcomes a renegotiation of the trade agreement.
New talks provide the opportunity to stop the exodus of jobs to Mexico and raise the standard of living for Mexican workers, Mr. Dias said.
"The fact that a Mexico auto worker can't buy a car that he builds or she builds is ridiculous," he said. "There has to be a change in labour statutes."
Want to interact with other informed Canadians and Globe journalists? Join our exclusive Globe and Mail subscribers Facebook group