The federal Liberals and Ontario Tories are blaming each other for the impending loss of 550 jobs at Bombardier’s railway car plant in Thunder Bay, ON.
Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said Wednesday in a statement that Ontario’s premier failed to deliver on a promised contract for the facility in her hometown that could have saved jobs.
“While our federal government and the hardworking people in my community worked to save jobs at the Bombardier plant, Doug Ford sat on his hands and made empty promises. His government let these critical investments lapse.”
Ford shot back that his government has put forward a $28.5-billion Toronto-area transit plan that could help keep the facility afloat, but he hasn’t “heard hide nor hair” about funding from Ottawa.
“They’ve been sitting on their hands,” he told reporters at a premiers’ meeting in Saskatoon.
“My message to the federal government is: ‘We put our money where our mouth is. Where is their money?’ ”
Bombardier Inc. announced Wednesday it is laying off half of the 1,100 workers at the plant as two major contracts in Ontario—for Toronto Transit Commission streetcars and Metrolinx GO Transit rail cars—are slated to be completed by the end of the year.
The layoffs will start in early November and gradually extend until the contracts are completed, Bombardier said.
The company pointed to “the cyclical nature of our business” as well as the Trump administration’s Buy American measures.
The threshold for local content requirements on public transportation projects in the U.S. sits at 65 percent, and will climb to 70 percent this fall. The rules also require final assembly south of the border, further threatening Bombardier’s dwindling Canadian operations.
“A company like Bombardier has no choice but to have an American manufacturing footprint and supply chain. Therefore, we cannot fully leverage our Canadian manufacturing footprint and expertise,” Bombardier said in a statement.
It said no U.S. work is currently being done in Thunder Bay.
The transportation giant has been downsizing its aerospace and railway operations for several years as it attempts to improve profitability.
In a statement Tuesday, Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney urged the company to work with her government to come to an agreement to save jobs at the plant.
The province extended an offer in June for Bombardier to build 36 additional GO Transit rail cars in a would-be deal that has yet to be signed.
“That’s still not going to prevent the layoffs…but the company can slow down the line speed and save 150 jobs,” Unifor president Jerry Dias said in an interview.
“If officials would have moved quicker a year ago, we may have been able to avoid much of this,” he said. “People aren’t going to hang around for one-and-a-half, two years, waiting and hoping that somehow additional work is going to be awarded.”
The layoffs mark another point in the contentious relationship between the federal Liberals and the Ontario Tories, particularly over the billions in spending on infrastructure.
Multiple members of Ford’s government also served in the previous federal Conservative government, giving them an understanding of how federal cash flows to provinces, territories, and cities.
Federal insiders said they expected some friction, but a source at one of the first closed-door meetings between the two governments said the Ontario side made it clear they would not be able provide extra help to more quickly move federal infrastructure money.