“They want to play politics. I’m not here to play politics with the federal government. I’m here to protect the workers in Thunder Bay and I think we’ve proved that.”
Ford said the Ontario government has “signed the cheque” and that if Bombardier wins the bid, people can be rehired.
“People want certainty and the federal government is not giving us certainty,” Ford also said. “We’ve given certainty. We’ve signed the cheque; we have our share … put your money where your mouth is federal government.”
Liberal MPP Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North) called news of the job losses “devastating” to the community he represents.
“As the largest private sector employer in Thunder Bay, this is extremely disappointing and must be countered with strong action to ensure that new contracts return the plant to full production levels.
“The province has a huge role to play in making this happen. With a commitment to make unprecedented investments in public transit in Ontario, the Ford government can ensure that this happens by working directly with Metrolinx and the TTC, by extending the contracts presently in place, and by increasing the Canadian content requirements for Ontario financed transit projects. the province can play a significant role in dealing with this crisis situation at the Thunder Bay plant.”
The Ford government was heavily criticized by the opposition last year for appearing to not fight to keep the General Motors plant operating in Oshawa after the company announced plans to shut it down. It was Dias, in fact, who brokered a deal to salvage some jobs.
On Wednesday, Ford said after hearing from Bombardier and Unifor union president Jerry Dias weeks ago, the province pledged $130 million to purchase vehicles.
Ford also said the CEO of Bombardier told him “Buy America” policies in the United States are “killing us right now. Absolutely killing us right now. We need the federal government to continue to negotiate with the U.S. government … we have to change the Buy America” provisions in place in a number of states.
Ford noted that Ontario conducts more than $390 billion in two-way trade with the United States, and is the top trading partner with 19 states.
In Saskatoon, the 13 premiers and territorial leaders are set to discuss not only concerns about international trade, but also how to break down interprovincial trade barriers.
Ford said he had dinner with Quebec Premier Francois Legault Tuesday night, and “we share the same values … I look forward to building a strong relationship with Quebec and the other premiers.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, kicking off a full day of meetings on Wednesday, said the annual Council of the Federation summer meeting is a chance to “explore meaningful solutions to the challenges we face together across this nation.”
Wednesday, “our focus will be on economic growth and the competitiveness of our jurisdictions,” Moe said, including trade, and “strategic infrastructure that will enhance that competitiveness.”
The leaders will also talk about “how we might strengthen international trade relations at this time of uncertainty and also continue the effort to reduce the barriers within our nation, between our jurisdictions.”
On Thursday, they plan to discuss health care funding and “the fact that the federal government is shouldering a declining share of health care costs in this country.”
Bombardier plans to lay off half of its 1,100 workers at its Thunder Bay plant that builds railway cars, and the union fears more job losses are on the way.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy