War of words between provincial, federal governments over Bombardier closure
Published Wednesday, July 10, 2019 10:26AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 10, 2019 7:31PM EDT
As hundreds of employees at Bombardier’s railway manufacturing plant in Thunder Bay, Ont. face the reality of losing their jobs, a war of words has erupted between the provincial and federal governments over exactly who should bear the blame.
After learning of the potential layoffs, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he “bumped up” a GO Transit vehicle contract in an effort to save jobs.
Ford claimed the $130 million Metrolinx contract, for 36 new GO trains, was moved up “a couple of years” and could have saved hundreds of jobs at the facility for years to come.
“As soon as I found out there might be a layoff, I put my money where my mouth is,” he said while speaking to reporters in Saskatoon on Wednesday.
Ford said negotiations with Bombardier have been ongoing for the past eight weeks, but acknowledges that the contract would have to be publicly tendered, meaning Bombardier would still have to bid on the project.
When asked why the company decided to proceed with the layoffs in spite of the provincial government’s offer, Ford blamed the “buy American” policies of United States President Donald Trump.
“The CEO of Bombardier told us this buy America policy down in the United States is absolutely killing us right now,” Ford said.
These remarks by Ford were made as the province accused the federal government of “playing politics” in the plant closure.
Federal Employment Minister Patricia Hajdu fired off a statement that placed some of the responsibility on the shoulders of Ford and the Progressive Conservative government.
“It was just a few months ago that Doug Ford told the union president that there would be another contract coming. But where is he now?” the statement reads.
“While our federal government and the hardworking people in my community worked to save jobs at the Bombardier plant, Doug Ford sat on his hands and made empty promises.”
Hajdu said Ford took over a year to accept federal infrastructure funding, including money for transit projects, that could have helped the company’s workers at the plant.
In response Ontario’s Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli placed the blame back on them.
Fedeli said the federal government, under Justin Trudeau, has yet to commit to funding the “full federal share” of Ford’s $28.5 billion transit expansion project announced in April.
“Minister Hajdu would rather play politics, than push her cabinet colleagues to approve a plan that Bombardier can bid on, build cars for, and keep good paying jobs in Thunder Bay,” Fedeli said in a statement.
Fedeli said his government recently met with Bombardier and Unifor — the union representing 1,100 workers at the northern facility — and offered to purchase $100 million in vehicles.
Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney pointed out on Tuesday that Metrolinx was “actively pursuing” purchasing additional GO Transit vehicles that the government said would have been built in Thunder Bay.