A new green auto strategy for Canada

The collective agreement ratified by Unifor members at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles this past weekend is a vital step in the rebuilding of the Canadian auto industry for the future.

The deal commits FCA to investing up to $1.5 billion in a new platform to build both Hybrid Vehicles and Battery Electric Vehicles in Windsor, with at least one new model by 2025.

It follows the pattern established by Ford members when they ratified a new collective agreement last month that also included a commitment to BEVs, and puts Canada well on the road to revitalizing the auto industry.

The collective agreements negotiated at Ford and FCA over the past month will resound throughout the Canadian economy, from resource extraction through manufacturing to research and development.

Once a thing of the future, BEVs are today widely recognized as a vital component of a modern auto industry. Canada is positioning itself to be part of that, with support from all levels of government and with both FCA and Ford committing to building BEVs and Hybrids in Canada.

BEVs mean not only revitalizing the auto industry, they mean injecting new business into the parts sector, securing new domestic supply chains and building new markets for the mining sector as it supplies components for the new vehicles, including a fresh market for Quebec and BC’s aluminum plants.

The ground has been prepared for all automakers and the industries that support them to be full partners in this country’s move to a new green economy as we emerge from the pandemic.

After all the pain Canadians have suffered over the past seven months, we must be sure that this country builds back better, with an economy that looks to the future and offers real opportunities for the next generation of workers. Rebuilding Canada’s auto industry with an eye to future electric vehicles is a big part of that.

The pandemic has battered our economy. Rebuilding won’t be easy. The fact that governments are committing so much money to green vehicle production shows that this is part of the long-term vision for the future – as it must be.

The fact is, zero-emission vehicles are expected to claim more than half the market by 2040 – just 20 years from now. For Canada to be part of that, and to ensure those who might be hurt by this change get the help they need, we need to start putting the pieces in place now.

Unifor have been an active part of that during our contract talks with Ford and FCA.

The federal and provincial governments have committed to supporting this industry with significant investments for companies getting into this emerging industry.

They have to. China is aggressively moving into zero-emission vehicle manufacturing. The European Commission has created the European Battery Alliance to build the industry there. Governments, in both cases, are involved in a significant way.

Canada will not be left behind, and is positioning itself to be a global leader in this new auto industry, and thankfully all levels of government are committed to supporting it.

These public investments, alone, do not constitute an industrial strategy – something Canada sorely lacks. They do, however, signal an important starting point. Our success hinges on all stakeholders rowing in the same direction. Other industries will have to come on board, as they adapt to a green future, as well.

There will, of course, be significant opportunities for the energy sector as vehicles running off batteries will need electricity to power them, whether that power comes from hydro, wind, solar, nuclear or fossil fuels.

At the same time, the move to a green economy will mean a move away from fossil fuels. The workers in that sector have literally fueled our economy for generations. They have the right to expect good jobs outside the energy sector as the green economy grows.

The opportunity for a green industrial economy is within our grasp. We have a responsibility to future generations to make it happen.