Unifor head says industry on the cusp of rebuilding, plays down Trump concerns

TORONTO _ The head of Canada’s auto workers union says the country is on the cusp of building its industry again and shouldn’t be concerned with the protectionist policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Unifor president Jerry Dias said the automotive industry is in an opportunistic time because of a recent commitment by the so-called Detroit Big Three automakers to invest about $1.5 billion in their Canadian operations after weeks of collective bargaining.

All three automakers said Thursday their commitment to those investments has not wavered.

Ford will still inject $700 million into its Ontario facilities, said Mark Buzzell, head of the automaker’s Canadian operations.

General Motors is busily implementing projects across its Ontario operations in Oshawa, St. Catharines and Woodstock with its promised $554 million investment, said Stephen Carlisle, president and managing director of GM Canada.

Fiat Chrysler remains committed to its $325 million of funding in Brampton, Ont., and $6.4 million in Toronto operations, a spokesperson said in an email.

Dias said a shift in policy by the federal government has also helped the industry.

He said the next step is continued investment, such as the Liberal’s recent decision to change the automotive innovation fund from repayable loans to grants.

Dias isn’t worried this continued investment will be jeopardized by President Trump who has called for automakers to build plants in America to create jobs at home.

Dias said the U.S. leader has bigger fish to fry than Canada and is likely to focus on Mexico _ which has a disproportionate amount of investment compared to how many cars are purchased in the country _ when it comes to big changes to NAFTA.

He said NAFTA has been unfair to workers in all three countries and any tweaks are likely to make things more beneficial for Canada, which should see a number of jobs in the country that reflects the amount of cars sold within its borders.