McGuinty defends Samsung deal

Tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs in Ontario would be put at risk if the Progressive Conservatives are elected on Oct. 6, Premier Dalton McGuinty warned Thursday.
Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty and his wife Terri chat with students in the chemistry department at the University of Western Ontario in London on Thursday. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs in Ontario would be put at risk if the Progressive Conservatives are elected on Oct. 6, Premier Dalton McGuinty warned Thursday.

McGuinty made the comments as he visited the University of Western Ontario to announce that Samsung plans to build a new manufacturing plant in London, creating 200 full-time jobs.

The facility, which will make solar energy components, will be the fourth Samsung manufacturing plant to be built in the province under the government's $7-billion green energy deal with the South Korean multi-national.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has vowed to tear up the Samsung agreement, which he calls a secret, untendered, sweetheart deal given to a foreign company that will cost the province good jobs.

"Mr. Hudak has been absolutely clear on this front, he does not share our excitement and enthusiasm for this plan," said McGuinty.

"He will not honour this contract. He will abrogate that contract and pay whatever damages flow from that at taxpayers' expense. He will kill those jobs." 

Ontario is already the leading manufacturer of automobiles in North America, and the Liberals want to make the province the leading manufacturer of green energy components, said McGuinty.

"Why can't we have hundreds of thousands of jobs related to renewable energy in Ontario," he said. "That's my vision. That's where we need to go."

Samsung vice-president Cheol Woo Lee ducked questions about the Tories' threat to scrap the deal which also guarantees the Korean firm space on Ontario's electricity grid for green energy produced from its wind and solar projects.

"We came here to do business, so we don't want to get involved in political affairs and the election campaign," Lee said as he stood beside the premier for the formal announcement of the new plant.

Samsung's three other manufacturing plants will be built in Windsor, Tillsonburg and Toronto to produce solar inverters, wind turbines and blades.

McGuinty, who also visited a Toyota plant in Woodstock on Thursday to tout the production of the new electric version of the RAV4 in Ontario, highlighting foreign investments in the province at the same time the Tories are railing against a Liberal tax credit for "foreign workers" that Hudak says discriminates against Ontario workers.

Foreign workers tax credit 'alienating voters,' Hudak says

Campaigning in Ottawa, Hudak again went on the offensive against a $10,000 tax credit for employers who give an immigrant their first job, saying it goes against the values of Ontario voters.

"It's Dalton McGuinty who's alienating voters with his bizarre idea to pay companies $10,000 a year to hire foreign workers when we have so many unemployed people in eastern Ontario where we stand today," said Hudak.

"This is one of the most divisive policies in memory that's picking special favourites among residents of Ontario or people moving into the province. I think it's wrong."

The New Democrats said they would soon offer their own policy to help all unemployed workers, not just foreign-trained professionals.

"Our plan will focus on all Ontarians because I think that's the right way to go," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in Thunder Bay. "Mr. McGuinty will have to justify his own policy."

The Liberals aren't worried about Ontario engineers and lawyers who have to compete against foreign-trained professionals now living here, said McGuinty.

"I'm worried about a new Canadian citizen who's been trained abroad who has yet to receive their Ontario certification," he said.

"So the program that we've got in place gives them on-the-job training so they can be positioned to get that certification and then go get a job and maybe start a business and create more jobs for all of us."

McGuinty again lashed out at Hudak for opposing the tax credit and trying to use it as a wedge issue to divide voters, but stopped short of saying the PC leader was a racist.

"Listen, I calls 'em as I sees 'em, and I've got a responsibility to be as honest as I can with Ontarians so they know where we're coming from," said McGuinty.

"In my Ontario, there's no us and them, there's just us, and I think that's a decidedly different outlook than that shared by the Tea Party elements in the PC Party."