Chrysler isn’t only important to the nearly 5,000 people who work there but it’s also a key to the City of Windsor’s budget.
CBC Windsor’s municipal affairs expert, political science professor Cheryl Collier, said Chrysler has been the second-biggest corporate rate payer in the city over the last decade.
“Its economic footprint is huge,” Collier said.
Collier said Chrysler paid $5.5 million in taxes in 2012, alone. Only Devonshire Mall paid more.
“If you’re sitting in municipal politics, you know how important Chrysler is to the city and how devastating it would be to the community if it left,” Collier said.
Collier said that while Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has held the line on residential taxes, Windsor businesses haven’t had the same benefit.
“We haven’t been as favourable to the business or commercial sector. We have higher business taxes than a lot of other municipal jurisdictions,” Collier said.
Last year, the chairman of the Windsor Regional Chamber of Commerce's finance and taxation committee claimed commercial realtors had potential buyers walk away after the annual tax bill is discussed.
Collier said her research found the City of Windsor and City of Toronto lead the province in shifting the tax burden from residents to businesses.
“If you think of non-residential taxes and the impact they have on the bottom line and how important they are to the city they become more important over time,” Collier said.
Last week, Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne, withdrew the company’s request for provincial and federal money to retool its two Ontario assembly plants, including the Windsor Assembly Plant, where minivans are made.
“There’s not a lot the municipal level has as a lever to keep businesses in town,” Collier said.
She praised the national newspaper ad campaign Francis started in the National Post and Globe and Mail two weeks ago.
She said it showed that Windsor was "going to do something, and not sit back idly."
Collier said municipalities can’t allow special tax deals to one particular business, it has to be the same rate for all businesses.
Collier said that “at some level it is frustrating to watch” the province and Ottawa hold work with companies and municipalities “not have the tools” to do anything.
“But it’s not lost on them, how important this is to the area,” Collier said of the provincial and federal governments.