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EAST YORK ADVOCATE 032: Conflicting goals

In an effort to reduce traffic gridlock and improve the environment our Toronto mayor and city council have adopted policies aimed at reducing the number of motor vehicles in the city by undertaking to build more rapid transit, reducing the number of parking spaces available and by installing bicycle lanes on major city streets.  Some have called this “a war on cars.”

While both Queen’s Park and Ottawa are apparently supportive of these city of Toronto policies, in reality they conflict with the long-standing provincial and federal policies of encouraging the growth of the manufacturing sector.  This conflict is especially significant since the manufacturing sector in Ontario is largely based on making motor vehicle parts and assembling them to be sold and driven in Ontario as well as elsewhere.

Most of the motor vehicle assembly plants are in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) itself: Oshawa, Oakville, Brampton and Allison.  In addition there are a vast number of motor vehicle parts manufacturing plants in the GTA, ranging in size from small tool and die companies to massive operations such as Magna.

The $50 million recently donated to our Toronto East General Hospital by Michael Garron’s parents was derived from the proceeds of selling their motor vehicle parts manufacturing business.

The motor vehicle parts and assembly manufacturing industry in Ontario directly employs 101,000 men and women, 63,000 making parts and 37,200 assembling motor vehicles. These jobs are highly skilled and highly paid, providing good pensions and other benefits for the middle class.  They are just the kind of jobs Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne are striving to maintain and create more of the same.  They contribute $6.1 billion to the Ontario and Canadian economies each year.  And in addition to the 101,000 direct jobs there are at least as many and likely twice that number of indirect jobs that depend upon the Ontario motor vehicle industry for their existence.

Is it any wonder then that both the provincial and the federal governments bailed out the motor vehicle industry when it faced bankruptcy in 2007 and this year announced grants to the industry totalling $ 204.8 million in order to keep these plants in Ontario rather than seeing them move their operations to the USA or Mexico?

Last year alone, Ontario motor vehicle manufacturers sold 1.95 million of their vehicles right here in Canada.  So while Toronto’s council is trying to reduce the number of motor vehicles, the province of Ontario and the government of Canada are doing everything possible to increase the number of motor vehicles.  What do these conflicting goals mean for Toronto’s “war on cars”?

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