Ontario announces $40 million for auto sector plan
The announcement is part of a 10-year plan for strengthening the auto sector's competitiveness.
The Ontario government will invest $40 million over the next three years to boost the province’s auto sector, including funding for innovation and training, as part of a new 10-year plan.
The strategy, aimed at growing a sector grappling with technology and trade disruptions, comes as General Motors Co. plans to shutter its Oshawa assembly plant by year-end, part of a broad restructuring to cut costs and boost investment in electric and self-driving vehicles.
Called “Driving Prosperity”, the Ontario government’s plan for the auto industry will put money into training and autonomous vehicle technology, and also attempt to reduce the red tape and regulation burden on the auto industry.
In announcing the plan on Feb. 14 at Woodbridge Foam, which includes automakers among its clients, Economic Development Minister Todd Smith said part of the plan is aimed workers – like those at GMs’ plant in Oshawa, Ont. – who have been displaced but who can be retrained and still work in the auto sector.
“We want to give those auto workers an opportunity to get trained quickly,” Smith said. “Micro-credentialling is part of our plan, so they can get up to speed and not just continue jobs in the current wave of auto sector jobs, but in the automobile sector of the future.”
A micro-credentials pilot will focus on targeted retraining for highly specific skills. The province will also modernize apprenticeship training, with the goal of making it more responsive to auto sector needs.
The plan also strives to create a more competitive business climate, which includes removing some regulatory barriers, streamlining approvals and certification for auto manufacturing sites, reviewing the industrial electricity rate, and international promotion of Ontario’s auto sector.
The province’s three-year grant program commits $19 million towards internships and training, $3.2 million towards online learning, and $2 million to an autonomous talent development program. Also, a new $3 million fund will support winter testing of mobility products.
Additionally, up to $10 million of the $40 million in the plant will be used for an automotive modernization program to help parts suppliers become more innovative, and will be made available to small and medium suppliers, who can each qualify for up to $100,000 as long as the company itself matches the funds.
Some industry association leaders were quick to signal their approval of the plan. “It’s a very good first step,” Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, told Reuters news agency. “The supply sector doesn’t need big investment funds. We need programs that target productivity and skills training.”
The president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, meanwhile, said the plan is an important step in creating a competitive business environment. “We are particularly pleased to see commitments focused on reducing the cost of manufacturing in Ontario and the openness to exploring investments supports for the manufacturing sector,” Dennis Darby said in a statement. “These two actions are critical to boost manufacturing investment in the province and improve the competitiveness of globally integrated sectors, including automotive.”