Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says Canada must do a better job of promoting its manufacturing sector and ensure its good-paying jobs endure, but he is not making any specific promises to the country's auto sector.
On Wednesday, Trudeau made a campaign stop in London, Ont., where he was asked several questions about his views on the auto sector and what the Liberals might offer the sector in light of changes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will bring, if it gets ratified.
"The Liberal Party of Canada is a pro-trade party. We understand how important it is to engage with the world," he said Wednesday. "Export-intensive industries pay 50 per cent higher wages that non-exporting industries. And trade deals are important for jobs, for growth, for consumer prices."
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Asked what the Liberals will do to help the auto sector as it becomes exposed to greater competition from abroad, Trudeau said that a Liberal government would work harder to promote the country's manufacturing sector outside of Canada.
"We need to continue to ensure that there are good manufacturing jobs right across Canada and specifically here in southwestern Ontario, where the auto sector is extremely important," said Trudeau.
Trudeau said the country must ensure the auto sector "continues to flourish and is competitive," which is why a Liberal government would focus on promoting its work.
'A good trade agreement'
Jeff Watson, the Conservative candidate and incumbent in the riding of Essex, said he was "not surprised that Justin Trudeau doesn't have either an auto policy or manufacturing policy, generally speaking."
Watson said in a telephone interview that the Conservatives have supported the industry during their near-decade in power and have worked to bring forward the Pacific Rim trade deal that will create new business opportunities.
"We not only have a good trade agreement, but many measures on the table that will assure that not only auto assembly, but parts manufacturing, will be around for many more decades to come," said Watson, who worked as an autoworker before being elected to Parliament.
Trudeau's remarks drew immediate reaction from the New Democrats, who issued a statement saying "his reply was vacant on specifics and heavy on platitudes."
Brian Masse, the New Democrat candidate in Windsor West, said that the auto industry has suffered under a Conservative government and said the public cannot trust it will improve under a potential Liberal government.
"After losing 400,000 manufacturing jobs under Harper's watch, New Democrats don't trust him to stand up for Canadian jobs," Masse said in a statement, referring to Trudeau. "That he can't take a position on the TPP, or even Harper's compensation package for the lost jobs, is astonishing."
The Conservatives say they will provide $1 billion to the country's auto sector over a 10-year period, if they are re-elected into government — a pledge that some auto industry stakeholders and observers have said is an admission that there will be job losses as a result of the still-to-be-ratified TPP.
The federal election is 12 days away.