Jerry Dias sees 'renewed interest' from Ottawa on auto sector

A national labour leader believes the recent change of government in Ottawa has been good for Canada's auto industry and there is strong interest from the governing Liberals in seeing it thrive.
Jerry Dias, the national president of Unifor, told CBC News that he believes Ottawa is showing 'renewed interest' in the auto sector, following the recent change in government. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

A national labour leader believes the recent change of government in Ottawa has been good for Canada's auto industry, saying there is strong interest from the governing Liberals in seeing it thrive.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias met with members of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council (CAPC) in Detroit on Tuesday.

The meeting was focused on the competitiveness of the Canadian auto industry and that sector's role in building the car of the future.

Dias said the meeting left him optimistic about the level of interest that both the Ontario and Canadian governments have in the auto sector.

"There is definitely a renewed interest in making sure that not only does the auto industry survive, but it in fact flourishes for the long term," Dias told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning in an interview on Wednesday.

Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development, attended Tuesday's meeting of the Canadian Autmotive Partnership Council in Detroit. (CBC)

"I believe that it was an incredible meeting yesterday as it relates to commitments."

CAPC is an industry-led group that is made up of automotive executives, government officials and other stakeholders.

Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development, also attended the meeting in Detroit.

Following the meeting, Bains released a statement saying the government "will continue to work closely with our partners to build a strong business climate to strengthen automotive investment in Canada."

'He understands'

Dias believed the minister, who has worked for Ford in the past, was well-informed about the auto file and saw the value the sector holds for the Canadian economy.

"Clearly, he understands the strategic importance and the economic importance of a strong auto industry," said Dias.

Dias said the meeting revealed a shift in thinking about the auto sector in Ottawa, when compared to the previous Conservative government.

"Frankly, I got out of the meeting what I was hoping to get out of it. And that was a real, renewed interest from the federal government that they understand that they have to play a proactive leadership role if there is going to be an industry at all," said Dias.

"And I hadn't received that sort of a feeling from a federal government in many, many years."

Brad Duguid, Ontario's Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, said he believed that Canada's most populous province was "ideally positioned to develop and build the vehicles of the future."

In a statement, Duguid said the province would work with CAPC members "to maximize these capabilities and pursue strategic investments that bolster the industry's long-term growth."

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