Automakers at Ontario’s trough

Just when I start to think Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s maybe OK on some things, he goes and hands $650 million to automakers:

“The approach is tried and true: we know we can attract investment and create and keep good full-time jobs by working with companies that are looking for the most aggressive and innovative places in North America,” McGuinty said.

“What’s new is designing a fund specifically to develop and manufacture green technologies and products across all sectors. There are people out there who claim you have to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment. We understand that, in today’s world, to grow your economy you must green your economy.”

The Washington Post treats this story a lot better than the Canadian Press does. CP basically rewrites the government’s news release and talks to its people; the Post offers this:

Although Canadians buy more compact cars than Americans — about 50 percent of sales compared with 33 percent, Cooper said — the Canadian plants in Ontario disproportionately produce big cars and trucks. Eighty percent of the production is sold in the United States and outside Canada, Cooper said.

“The vehicles we actually put together in Canada are large gas guzzlers — minivans, big Chrysler products, big Ford products — the market for which is rapidly disappearing,” said Stephen Hazell, president of the Sierra Club of Canada in Ottawa.

McGuinty is pursuing his oxymoronic strategy of encouraging the production of “big green cars,” which is precisely at odds with his strategy of reducing the greenhouse gases emanating from Ontario and the $17 billion he announced the other day in provincial support for public transit.

That’s not to say there aren’t people whose jobs or families legitimately demand large vehicles (I’ve been known to participate in an SUV rental as one of five guys going on a camping trip), but the market is bound to get smaller and smaller as more and more people decide that a big car isn’t worth the wretched cost of running it and the best way to have a more efficient vehicle is to have a smaller vehicle. Meanwhile, union leader Buzz Hargrove loves the thing because it means his members, who work in an industry doing ever-less productive work, don’t have to take the pay cuts they ought to get to keep their industry viable.

What happened to the compact between employers and employees? Lord knows they’ve shared the wealth in the auto industry, held up as an excellent example of co-operation between big companies and big labour — why aren’t they sharing the pain?

Auto- and parts-makers know what they have to do, they just haven’t bothered to do it. Why, for crying out loud, do they deserve productive people’s money to support them in doing it?

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