A Canadian content policy would ensure the longevity of the Bombardier's Thunder Bay passenger rail car operation, said the city's mayor.
Bill Mauro was reacting to the news that the Montreal-headquartered aviation and rail manufacturing giant was laying off 550 of its 1,100-person workforce at the plant in the northwestern Ontario city's south end.
With two contracts expiring at year's end to supply the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) with light rail vehicles and Metrolinx's Go Train service with bi-level coaches, Mauro said keeping the plant open for the long haul requires Queen's Park to adopt a 'BuyAmerican-type' strategy.
Mauro said keeping the sprawling 500,00-square-foot plant alive and thriving has been a priority issue for him since the former Wynne government cabinet minister won the mayor's chair last fall.
"We've done what we could. Obviously, the focus now turns to more of a longer-term solution in ensuring the long-time viability and sustainability of the plant."
The demand for passenger cars certainly seems to be there, Mauro said, based on the Ford government's inaugural budget, but the government policy needs to ensure that the city's largest private employer remains sustainable.
Last April, Queen's Park unveiled a plan for a nearly $30-billion Toronto-area transit expansion plan with four proposed subway and light rail projects. The province has committed $ 11.2 billion, expecting the City of Toronto and Ottawa to come up with the remaining $17 billion on the tab.
Back in 2008, the McGuinty government decreed that public-transit vehicles purchased with provincial funds must include at least 25 per cent Canadian content.
The policy was meant to safeguard manufacturing jobs but wasn't considered so onerous as to provoke international retaliation for protectionism. That notion has since been lost on other industrialized countries which have more strenuous domestic content requirements.
"We need the Ford government to very clearly articulate a position that they are supportive of that policy and, in fact, they will perhaps even increase the local content requirement," said Mauro.
"Without that Canadian content policy there's no guarantee that we'll even get the work should Bombardier choose to bid on that work."
Mauro points to Via Rail's selection last December of Siemens over Bombardier on a $989-million contract for passenger rail cars on the Windsor-Quebec City corridor. The German company intends to manufacture those...