Monday, December 1, 2008 | Categories: Episodes
Today's program was a Special Edition of The Current from Windsor, Ontario.
It's Monday, December 1st.
Big Three auto executives will be in Washington this week to present a restructuring plan they hope will earn them a government bailout. But instead of flying in private jets, they'll drive from Detroit to the Capital... in fuel-efficient cars.
Currently, fortunately for them, Toyota had enough Priuses on hand to lend them.
This is The Current.
What if? - Chrysler Workers
Now if you're going to go to Windsor to talk about what would happen to the city if the Big Three auto makers disappeared ... you have to start with the families who work there.
Jeff and Kelly Taylor grew up in Windsor. They have a nice, simple home about three blocks from the Chrysler plant. Jeff works nights. Kelly works days. So they don't actually see each other all that much. A generation ago, they would have been set. A job at Chrysler was a job for life -- a job you could raise a family on. But that certainty? It's gone.
What if? - Chiropractor
It's pretty clear that if the Big Three automakers disappeared from Windsor, Jeff and Kelly Taylor would take a huge hit. But it doesn't stop there. For example, let's say you're a chiropractor.
And more precisely, lets say you're a chiropractor or a registered massage therapist who works in a city with a lot of auto workers ... auto workers prone to repetitive stress injuries who also happen to have pretty good health benefits.
What if? - CAW President
We started this segment with a clip from Ken Lewenza. He's the National President of the Canadian Auto Workers union. He's talking to a room full of CAW members ... very nervous CAW members. And really, it's pretty obvious why.
There are about 18,000 people directly employed by the auto industry in Windsor. Nearly half of them work for GM, DaimlerChrysler or Ford. That's about 8,400 people. But industry analysts estimate that for every one auto worker, seven other people are employed in some way that's related to the industry.
So, a little math ... If the Big Three disappear, that's 8,400 jobs. Multiply that by seven and suddenly 58-thousand people could be out of work ... more than a quarter of Windsor's population.
Now that's a problem for the people who live here. It's a problem for people like Ken Lewenza at the Canadian Auto Workers union. And it's a problem for the entire union movement in Canada since the CAW is one of the biggest and most powerful private sector unions in the country.
So Ken Lewenza, what would it mean for the CAW if the Big Three auto makers really did disappear from Windsor?
What if? - United Way
Now as we learned from our trip to the chiropractor, if the Big Three auto makers disappeared from Windsor, there would be significant consequences. Lots of them. We heard from Janice Forsythe from the United Way.
Listen to Part One:
What if? - Former Auto Worker
It must be a bit odd for Chris Holt -- a laid-off Ford worker -- to walk around a campus where the links to the auto industry are everywhere. In addition to the CAW Student Centre -- which Chris Holt indirectly helped build with his union dues -- there's the DaimlerChrysler Automotive Research and Development Centre ... The Auto 21 Centre of Excellence ... The Centre for Automotive Research and Education ... The International Truck and Engine Centre ... The Ford Powertrain Engineering Research and Development Group ... The Centre for Clean Diesel ... you get the idea.
With all that education in automaking, many students are here to find a future in the industry. But Chris Holt hopes an education will let him leave the autoworker life behind.
What if? - Entrepreneurship Professor
Now Chris Holt may be glad to be out of the auto industry but there aren't too many people here who would actually cheer if the Big Three auto makers got out of Windsor.
So Mark Meldrum is an anomaly here. He teaches entrepreneurship at the Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor. And was in our Windsor studio.
What if? - Mayor
Now we've heard a lot of criticism of Windsor's dependence on the auto industry. And more than a few people have suggested that the city hasn't done enough to diversify its economy.
So we asked the Mayor of Windsor, Eddie Francis to join us. He was in a car on his way to a meeting in London, Ontario.
What if? - Car Dealer
For years, a lot of people who live in Windsor have taken great pride in driving a car made in North America ... something local dealers have counted on. We wanted to know how those dealers would fair if the Big Three pulled up their stakes. So we paid a visit to Rose City Ford.
Listen to Part Two:
What if? - Mould Maker
This morning, we're getting a close-up look at the challenges facing Canada's auto industry. And we're asking what would happen to a city such as Windsor if the Big Three auto makers disappeared. But car companies aren't the only ones building cars in this city. There are countless numbers of parts manufacturers, tool and die makers, mould makers and they all depend on the Big Three for their livelihoods.
What if? - Panel
So far this morning, we've been focused on what the disappearance of GM, Ford and Chrysler from Windsor would mean for the short-term and long-term future of that city, its economy and its workforce. It's still much too early to know what is going to happen to the Big Three in the United States and Canada and how much the government in each country is willing to help prop them up.
But there's one certainty in all this ...the future of the Big Three and the auto industry as a whole is uncertain in Canada. Whether we end up with a Big One, Little Three, or Medium-Sized Two-owned-largely-by-Chinese-and-Indian investors remains to be seen.
But where some see crisis and dark days ahead, others see opportunity and a brighter, greener future. We spoke to three guests who discussed what the auto industry of the future might look like and what that would mean for Canada.
Guy Dauncey is the President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, and author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change. He was in our Victoria, B.C. studio. Linda McQuaig is a journalist specializing in economic and political issues, and she's the author of several books, including It's The Crude, Dude. She was in our Toronto studio, along with Dennis DesRosiers, the head of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.
Last Word - Neil Young
Later today on CBC Radio One, it's The Point and host Aamer Haleem is asking if the federal belt-tightening has gone too far and whether we really want our politicians to live like paupers. That's The Point at 2 o'clock -- 2:30 in Newfoundland and Labrador. And tonight at 10 o'clock on CBC Television, The National will have the latest on confidence votes, coalition negotiations and the future of our parliament.
And we ended the program today with one more thought about the future of the car.
Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young loves his car. It's a 1959 Lincoln Continental ... a car that really doesn't lend itself to fuel-efficiency or environmental friendliness. But instead of abandoning it, he's going retrofit in a bid to make it operate on an electric battery. We aired a clip of him explaining the project to David Letterman.
Listen to Part Three: