The union head at a Brampton auto plant is sounding the alarm about the newly signed Trans-Pacific Partnership, claiming it has the potential to devastate the industry in Ontario.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hailed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a "historic deal" and said it protects Canadian jobs now with the potential to create more in generations to come. But it will bring major changes to the auto industry.
Under the 12-country deal, Canada's 6.1 per cent tariff on imported vehicles will be phased out over five years and domestic content requirements will be slashed. Auto parts previously needed 60 per cent North American content in order to remain duty-free, with a minimum of 62.5 per cent for a fully assembled vehicle.
It will also allow for tariff-free movement of vehicles that have as little as 45 per cent domestic content, something Unifor President Jerry Dias blasted as "outrageous."
Jody Schneider, the chairperson of Android Industries, which manufactures and supplies parts to the Chrysler plant in Brampton, says she's worried the deal with result in layoffs.
"We were having trouble with the three-country (NAFTA) agreement and now I understand it's 12 countries and that means job losses for us," said Schneider. "It's looking like there will be no auto industry if we keep going in this direction."
Harper, in his public comments about the deal, has refuted that opinion.
"Let's be absolutely frank and clear. Canada's automotive sector is an export-based industry," Harper told reporters in Ottawa. "Our view is the rules that we've achieved mean that our automobile industry is going to have unprecedented access to the global market."
Schneider, who has worked in the auto industry for 40 years, admits her colleagues are unsure about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will impact them, but says it might help sway their vote in the upcoming election.
Harper 'not thinking about the average worker'
"They may be more decisive about how they vote in getting Stephen Harper out because obviously he thinks this is going to get him votes," Schneider said. "But anybody you talk to says it's going to get him out."
In a statement issued Monday, Brad Duguid, Ontario's Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, and Jeff Leal, the province's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, expressed their concern about several key concessions regarding the auto sector.
"Ontario is concerned that TPP auto concessions will rapidly expose both Ontario's auto assembly and parts producers to much stiffer global competition, especially when compared to the U.S. concessions, potentially placing the jobs and livelihoods of many Ontarians at risk," the pair said in a statement.