LILLEY: Border blockades hurt jobs, not politicians

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As Premier Doug Ford made the type of announcement all politicians love – a spending announcement – ​​he had a grim warning. If the bridges continue to be blocked, Ontario is in trouble.

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It’s no surprise that the protests that disrupted trade with the United States are on his mind, it’s just strange that he puts it so bluntly.

Ford announced that the Ontario government would match Ottawa’s $500 million investment in ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s steel mill in Hamilton.

This is part of the Ford government’s ongoing strategy to restore Ontario’s manufacturing base, particularly in the automotive sector.

For years, Dofasco’s bread and butter has supplied steel to the auto sector, a sector of the economy that worries Ford given the closure of the Ambassador Bridge last week and the slowing of the Blue Water in Sarnia — two trade routes that carry more than 60% of goods traded between Canada and the United States.

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“Every major automotive company calls me. And the very simple question they ask me, ‘Do you have a secure and stable environment for us to invest in your jurisdiction?’ Ford said of the bridge blockages.

Although he insists Ontario is safe, he is obviously shaken and returned to the economy again and again during his press conference when he discussed the protests now dotting the country.

“We are in competition with everyone. We compete with our largest trading partner in the United States, Europe and Asia. Man, we can’t be wrong,” Ford said.

He’s not wrong, and it’s not just the auto industry that stands to lose long-term business if the problems persist.

What many Canadians do not realize is that we are now dealing with the most protectionist US government in decades. It’s not just the odd local congressman or senator seeking to protect a privileged local industry, it’s the entire government, and that goes all the way to the White House.

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When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traveled to Washington in November to push back against Biden’s protectionist budget measures related to electric vehicles, Biden was not there to greet him. He was in Detroit pushing these very protectionist measures.

If you thought Donald Trump was a protectionist president, then you haven’t looked at Biden’s plans.

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On every front, from automobiles to lumber, from beef to dairy, Biden wants to dismantle the fine trading relationship that Canadians and Americans have built over centuries and bring all production home.

That’s why all of this is important.

The auto sector is important to Canada, but especially to Ontario. Some 93,000 people are employed by the industry in assembly and parts factories. There are jobs with suppliers and various spin-off jobs.

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Over the past two years, Ontario’s five automakers — Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota — have announced $6.1 billion in new investment in Ontario. It’s a long-term investment that will result in well-paying jobs for middle-class families.

We cannot afford to lose such an investment.

Currently, Chrysler’s parent company is looking for where to locate an electric vehicle battery plant, and Ontario is on the shortlist. Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli has courted businesses large and small, including other automakers, to set up shop in Ontario. Part of Fedeli’s narrative as an Ontario seller is our proximity to the US market and our close integration with their economy.

Blocking or slowing down bridges in a way that costs billions of dollars hurts that message and hurts the ability of Ford, Trudeau or industry representatives to stand up for Canada when they push back against protectionism.

And in the end, if we lose on this front, it doesn’t hurt the politicians, it hurts the workers.

So before blocking a bridge or supporting this idea in the future, think about the meaning of your actions.

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