Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown's criticism of the governing Liberals' handling of the provincial automotive sector failed to impress a local MPP and a local labour leader, who say it amounts only to words, not action.
Brown spoke about Windsor's lost bids for a Jaguar Land Rover automotive plant in the provincial legislature Wednesday, blaming the governing Liberals for the failed bids and asking whether the government had given up on manufacturing in Ontario.
"The conditions created by the Liberal government are killing jobs in Ontario," Brown said. "The reality is that we've lost 43,000 auto jobs on the watch of this government. Windsor is a city that relies on auto manufacturing jobs. Instead of listening to municipalities, the premier is making it harder and harder for municipalities to compete."
Brown said the province's policies on energy prices, a cap-and-trade agreement and the new provincial pension plan were making it impossible for municipalities to successfully bid on new manufacturing work.
In response, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province gained 15,000 manufacturing jobs in the last seven months and is the number one jurisdiction for foreign direct investment.
"The investments we are making, the conditions we are creating in Ontario, whether it is in manufacturing, electricity rates, allow them to have a reduced rate so that they can be more competitive," Wynne said.
She said the province does have a good relationship with municipalities.
Federal election prompted questioning
Dino Chiodo, the president of Unifor Local 444, which represents autoworkers at Windsor's Fiat Chrysler Windsor Assembly Plant, said Brown would be meeting with his federal counterparts to develop a national auto strategy if he were serious about the industry.
"I've met with Patrick Brown and he's expressed concerns with the auto industry and policies," Chiodo said. "But the reality is he's coming out right now because of the federal elections."
"It's just a matter of pointing fingers right now. We should be working collaboratively," Chiodo said. "When Patrick Brown stands up and makes those accusations, the reality is you can't do anything without the federal government being directly involved putting forward a manufacturing policy that protects all of Canada."
The federal government is more important than its provincial counterpart when it comes to Canada's automotive industry, Chiodo said.
Rebranding with new leader
Essex NDP MPP Taras Natyshak said the Progressive Conservatives are trying to rebrand themselves, without changing policy.
"I think this is an attempt at retribution, to sort of make amends for the mistakes of the past," Natyshak said. "But I'm taking it with a grain of salt because we know what their policies are. They're not interesting in developing an automotive strategy."
Natyshak said he wanted to see a change in policy before he buys into Brown's defence of the automotive sector.
"We're listening, it's interesting to see," he said. "There's a healthy dose of irony or hypocrisy in their line of questioning. Again, it's a new leader and they're attempting to rebrand themselves and we'll see if his words carry any weight."