Ontario bracing for autos tariffs and NAFTA breakdown

The new Progressive Conservative government in Ontario is bracing for the fallout on workers if U.S. President Donald Trump decides to slap Canada with duties on vehicles.
Hundreds of thousands of auto sector jobs in Canada will be at risk if Donald Trump imposes vehicle tariffs. (Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press via AP)
Listen7:53

The new Progressive Conservative government in Ontario is bracing for the fallout on workers if U.S. President Donald Trump decides to slap Canada with duties on vehicles.

"It would be devastating to workers on our side of the border," the province's trade minister Jim Wilson told The House.

Trump has floated the idea of 25 per cent tariffs for weeks, sending international trading partners into a frenzy and keeping auto workers in Canada on the edge of their seats.

Japan, Mexico, Canada and EU countries met in Switzerland on Tuesday to discuss an action plan if the president makes good on his threat.

In meetings with members of Congress, Wilson said he's made clear the devastation that decision would have on both sides of the border.

"Why would anyone get elected to hurt their own people," he said.

Studies estimate the Canadian job loss would be a minimum of 200,000 jobs — most of them in Ontario.

The focus on the auto sector is also a large chunk of what the U.S. has touted as derailing NAFTA negotiations.

Jerry Dias, the president of Unifor, said he's concerned the U.S. isn't looking for a deal, but is playing politics with economics.

If U.S. Donald Trump imposes stiff tariffs on the auto industry, Ontario will be hit hard. Their Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Minister Jim Wilson on what the Ford government intends on doing about it. 7:59

Mexican labour standards are a pain point for the talks, Dias said. However, the U.S. seems to be targeting the auto sector both north and south of their borders.

"It will destroy the auto industry ... in both Canada and the United States," Dias explained.

"Nobody is going to win this one."

With citations of progress on the impasses one week and warnings of duty disasters the next, Wilson said Ontario workers need protection now.

"We're not out of the woods at all."

Trade negotiators for the U.S. and Mexico continued to meet in Washington this week to resolve major differences about the auto sector. Canada isn't at those meeting. Unifor President Jerry Dias gives us his read into it. 7:53