CBC Digital Archives

Canadian auto boom

Since 1900, Canada has had a history of unique automobile design and manufacturing, from the first motorized horse carriages to the electric car. It's a story of invention, craftsmanship and high-risk business opportunities by foreign entrepreneurs looking for Canadian financial backing. The CBC Digital Archives highlights the history of some cars designed and made exclusively in Canada.

In the mid-1980s Canada's struggling auto industry revs into high gear. Big Japanese car companies like Suzuki and Honda set up shop in Canada, thanks in part to the low dollar and skilled - and non-unionized - workforce. The Auto Pact offers foreign automakers from Japan and Western Europe free access to the U.S. market if they build in Canada. Carmaking is now Canada's most important industry. But the Americans cry foul as their auto industry flounders.

South of the border, plants are closing, jobs are disappearing and the Auto Pact becomes the villain. Angry American workers say that the Auto Pact has created too many jobs in Canada, and too few at home. They also say that the agreement was never meant to allow foreign carmakers to avoid import taxes.
. In 1965, Canada had a five per cent share of the North American auto industry. By 1987, its share had jumped to 18 per cent in a much larger industry.
. In 1987, the Honda plant in Alliston, Ont., employed 300 workers. By 1999, Honda employed 3,500 in Alliston.
. Honda and Toyota employees are non-unionized. In 2002, Toyota workers made about $28 per hour, which is almost identical to wages for members of the Canadian Auto Workers union.
Medium: Television
Program: Venture
Broadcast Date: Aug. 31, 1986
Guest(s): John Hammond, Gary McGugan, George Peapples
Host: Michael Vaughan
Reporter: Linda Sims
Duration: 4:40

Last updated: January 23, 2012

Page consulted on March 29, 2012

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