Michelin's future in Nova Scotia secure under new free trade deal, says Freeland

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland toured the Michelin Tire plant Wednesday in Granton, N.S., saying the new free trade deal with the United States and Mexico secures the future of the province's largest private sector employer.

Foreign affairs minister toured the company's plant in Pictou County on Wednesday

Chrystia Freeland toured the Michelin tire plant in Granton, N.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. (CBC)

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland toured the Michelin Tire plant Wednesday in Granton, N.S., saying the new free trade deal with the United States and Mexico secures the future of the province's largest private sector employer.

Freeland was accompanied by Liberal MP Sean Fraser, who represents the riding of Central Nova where the plant is located.

Seventy per cent of the tires manufactured at Michelin's three Nova Scotia plants are sold in Canada, but most of the rest are exported to the United States.

Access to U.S. 'hugely important'

Freeland said maintaining unhindered access to the U.S. is "hugely important" for Michelin.

"It gives meaning to our work to talk to some of the people whose jobs are now secure, thanks to the fact that we have a new NAFTA with the United States," she said.

Michelin employs nearly 3,500 people in Nova Scotia.

Last month it announced plans to expand its Granton plant by adding a new line of winter tires and the production of semi-finished tire material for its other Nova Scotia plants at Bridgewater and Waterville.

The project will add 150 jobs and make permanent 200 temporary positions at Granton.

Expansion possible because of trade deal?

Freeland claimed the new trade deal is responsible for the expansion.

"This really means the great jobs people have here are assured and it makes possible the expansion plans that I was really delighted hear about," she said.

Michelin employs nearly 3,500 people in Nova Scotia. (CBC)

However, Jeff MacLean, president of Michelin Canada, told allnovascotia.com earlier this month the expansion at Granton was laid out more than a year ago and it would have gone ahead regardless of the outcome of the free trade negotiations.

MacLean was on the tour Wednesday but was not made available to speak to reporters.

High-profile boost for local MP

For Fraser, Freeland's visit was another high-profile boost.

Earlier this summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Central Nova to announce Ottawa would contribute $90 million to twin a dangerous section of the Trans-Canada Highway in the riding.

On Wednesday, Freeland was slated to be the guest speaker at Fraser's Central Nova nomination meeting.

Central Nova Liberal MP Sean Fraser at the Michelin Tire plant in Granton, N.S., Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. (CBC)

Both Fraser and Freeland repeatedly referred to the new trade deal as a boon for middle-class jobs like the ones at Michelin, a Liberal mantra in the run-up to the 2019 federal election.

They also tailored the message to a Maritime audience where outmigration is a long-standing sore spot, repeatedly saying it will help keep people in the province.

"So that expansion means that many more people will get to stay here," Fraser said.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.