It has been a difficult week for the citizens of Thunder Bay following the announcement of layoff notices for 550 employees at the Bombardier plant due to a lack of future work contracts. This discouraging news comes despite months of effort and direct engagement by Bombardier with Federal and Provincial Government representatives, supported by local stakeholders including the Mayor & Council, UNIFOR, the Community Economic Development Commission, the Chamber and others.
Thunder Bay has been through this before: we understand the hardship that will be experienced by the men and women whose jobs are directly impacted and the spin-off impacts that will be felt across the community. We also know that there is much work to do to help to ease the pain of transition and that our city can and must come together to help cushion the blow.
We cannot allow ourselves to get caught up in the blame game and must focus instead on solutions to address the current situation. The Chamber will continue to stand side by side with Bombardier, UNIFOR local 1075, the CEDC and City Council to push for contract expansions to keep workers on the job. Now is the time for all of us to stand up for our community and to raise our voices loudly to let the Federal and Provincial Governments know that we need urgent action to minimize the negative consequences. Every week that goes by without additional work hurts local workers and their families.
We must also look to long-term solutions. The Chamber will continue our long-standing efforts to level the playing field for Thunder Bay’s Bombardier operation regarding Canadian content requirements. For decades, Canadian and Provincial Governments have blindly rejected the need to protect our local economies while our trading partners have continued to grow their local content requirements. The Buy America Act in the United States is increasing from the current 65% local content requirement to 70% this fall, meaning that the Thunder Bay plant doesn’t even have the opportunity to bid for U.S. contracts.
Our Governments cannot continue to be naïve about the realities of global trade and must ensure that every trade agreement contains a requirement for reciprocity on local content. If the U.S. requires 70% local content, then those same rules should be applied to U.S. companies bidding on our transportation contracts. It is time for Canada to demand a level playing field to ensure that our tax dollars support Canadian jobs.