Half a century ago, in 1965, Lester Pearson and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed an historic deal that helped to make Ontario an economic powerhouse. It was the Canada-U.S. Autopact.
Detroit’s ‘Big 3’, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, agreed to make roughly a third of their vehicles in Canada, resulting in many thousands of new manufacturing jobs north of the border. Fairly soon, there were also thousands more jobs in the manufacture and distribution of parts.
The plants in Canada produced many of the same cars and trucks as American workers, but many buyers in the U.S. came to believe that their Ford or Chevy would be more reliable if it were assembled in the true north strong and free. I’m not sure that was ever proven, and it’s now just a distant memory.
The Autopact has been replaced by the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and then by NAFTA. If there’s a winner in all of that, it’s probably Mexico, mainly because they’re able to pay the workers on their assembly lines a lot less. The Big 3 no longer rule the roost in the vehicle world. Toyota and Honda now produce vehicles in North America, and many other countries like South Korea market their own popular brands.
So, it was no great surprise on Thursday when GM announced that it will be eliminating 1,000 jobs at its huge plant in Oshawa, Ontario. That’s about a third of the workforce, and those jobs are not likely to ever return.
Everywhere we look in recent months in Canada, jobs are being lost by the thousands. In addition to manufacturing, retail jobs are vanishing as Target and Future Shop and others close their doors. It leaves many other people wondering “might we be next?”. Is this really what economic recovery looks like?
Seems to me it was a lot easier for Pearson and LBJ when I was finishing high school. What an interesting time to be fighting elections in 2015.
I’m Roger Currie