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Enough with political blame game on Bombardier, says Thunder Bay chamber

Chamber president pushes for ‘level playing field’ on domestic content rules
Bombardier Thunder Bay
Bombardier's Thunder Bay plant (Bombardier photo)

Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce president Charla Robinson is urging the provincial and federal governments to get tough on domestic content rules on manufactured goods to save jobs at the city’s rail coach assembly plant.

In rallying with the Bombardier, Unifor Local 1075 and the City of Thunder Bay to push for more contract work at the plant, Robinson said in a July 15 statement that the 550 layoffs will felt across the community.

Workers at Bombardier’s Thunder Bay rail coach assembly plant received much anticipated, but dreaded, news July 10 when senior company executives said half the plant’s workforce will be pink-slipped due to the lack of transit contracts in 2020 and beyond.

Layoffs start at the plant in November based on two expiring transits with the Toronto Transit Commission and Metrolinx Go Service at year’s end.

The Ford government’s first provincial budget last spring called for a $28.5-billion Toronto-area transit expansion plan with four proposed subway and light rail projects. The province said it has committed $11.2 billion and is expecting the City of Toronto and Ottawa to come with the remaining tab.

The Bombardier layoffs have sparked a fresh round of bickering between Queen’s Park and Ottawa.

“We cannot allow ourselves to get caught up in the blame game and must focus instead on solutions to address the current situation,” Robinson said in the chamber’s weekly newsletter.

“Every week that goes by without additional work hurts local workers and their families.”

Robinson wants to “level the playing level” for Bombardier by expanding Canadian content requirements on public transit procurement requirements.

In 2008, the then-McGuinty government decreed that public-transit vehicles purchased with provincial funds must include at least 25 per cent Canadian content. 

“For decades, Canadian and provincial governments have blindly rejected the need to protect our local economies while our trading partners have continued to grow their local content requirements,” she said.

The Buy America Act will increase the 65 per cent American content requirement on steel, iron and manufactured goods to 70 per cent this fall, which could farm more Bombardier work to its U.S. shops.

Robinson wants senior government to raise the stakes.

“If the U.S. requires 70 per cent local content, then those same rules should be applied to U.S. companies bidding on our transportation contracts. It is time for Canada to demand a level playing field to ensure that our tax dollars support Canadian jobs.”