Canadian Auto Workers

Shortly after General Motors announced it would eliminate an assembly line at Oshawa, thereby eliminating 2,000 jobs, the Canadian Auto Workers union got on the phone to set up meetings with ministers from the three major political parties in Canada. The CAW didn't just want to jawbone and complain, either – it entered the meetings with a slate of breathtakingly ambitious initiatives that would comprise a national auto policy.

We're not sure if the union asked for everything hoping they could at least get half, but most of the ideas have little chance of leaving the printed page: the government should maintain minority stakes in automakers, devalue the Canadian dollar, secure manufacturing commitments from automakers, examine the feasibility of a Canadian carmaker and halt free-trade negotiations with the EU and other carmaking nations like Japan and Thailand. And in a move reminiscent of the Saab trustees' request to the U.S. government, the CAW, citing a "moral obligation" on the part of GM because the Canadian government still owns ten-percent stake in The General, asked MPs to strongly encourage GM to "to ensure continued investment in Canadian facilities and jobs."

After those bombshells, the additional requests of formally laying out a national manufacturing footprint and building a green automaker are soggy firecrackers by comparison. The blunt response of a Tory (conservative) MP who's a member of the Tory auto cacus was, "they want a highly labour-intensive auto industry behind protectionist walls and subsidized by taxpayers." CAW chief Ken Lewenza did claim that all parties agreed on the need for a national auto policy, nevertheless, we have a feeling it won't have much in common with the CAW's proposals.