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Ontario premier, federal minister fail to change GM’s decision to leave Oshawa

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Ontario and federal politicians have walked away empty-handed from meetings with General Motors about the company’s plans to close the Oshawa Assembly Plant.

Federal Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains met briefly with GM CEO Mary Barra on the sidelines of an auto show in Detroit Monday and Ontario Premier Doug Ford met with GM president Mark Reuss Tuesday morning.

Both politicians said they urged the company to reconsider its decision to shutter the plant at the end of this year and are disappointed GM refused to budge on the closure.

“I had a very candid conversation with Mary and the senior executive team at GM,” Bains told The Canadian Press on Tuesday in an interview.

“I also articulated that GM is making a mistake by leaving Oshawa.”

He told Barra and other senior GM executives that Ottawa is prepared to be part of any solution related to the Oshawa facility.

Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, right, shown on Monday in Windsor, said ‘I also articulated that GM is making a mistake by leaving Oshawa.’ (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Barra, he said, indicated GM will continue to support its assembly operation in Ingersoll and its engine and transmission factory in St. Catharines. She also insisted the company will continue to make investments in its Markham research and development facility, he said.

Bains, who met with Chrysler CEO Michael Manley on Tuesday, said automakers are optimistic about Canada’s role as a place to build cars of the future, including zero-emissions and automated vehicles.

“Obviously, we regret the decision that GM has taken vis-a-vis Oshawa — but they’re an outlier,” said Bains, who added that Manley reaffirmed his commitment to Chrysler’s Brampton and Windsor assembly plants in Ontario.

Doug Ford asks GM for more time

In a statement, Ford said he promised to press GM executives to extend the company’s operations at its Oshawa plant to give workers more time to prepare for the consequences of the closure.

“Despite raising this on repeated instances, I was disappointed to hear that General Motors’ position has not changed,” Ford’s statement said.

Union leader Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, has criticized Ford for not fighting for Oshawa workers after the premier initially said little could be done to change the minds of GM executives. Ford met with Dias on Monday and committed to raising the issue with the company.

Dias, speaking at a press conference Tuesday, said he welcomed increased support from government after a frustrating amount of silence.

“Fighting General Motors is a significant enough battle, I ought not to have to fight with the premier of Ontario or the prime minister of the country.”

Dias said about 100 unionized workers at Oshawa auto parts supplier Inteva Products walked off the job in Whitby, Ont. Tuesday to draw attention to how the Oshawa closure will affect supplier jobs as well.

Unifor not ready to give up

He said GM can expect more actions to put pressure on the company to reverse its decision.

“Though Mary Barra and others keep saying sorry, this decision is final, we don’t view it that way at all. This is about greedy motors. This is about a poor decision.”

GM announced in late November that it would wind down its Oshawa operations by the end of 2019 at a loss of about 2,600 unionized workers and 340 other staff.

Car parts maker Magna International Inc. said Tuesday that the Oshawa shutdown, as well as four potential GM plant closures in the U.S., had hurt its outlook for the year ahead.

“Our North American business reflects the negative impact of the recently announced General Motors assembly plant actions,” Magna said in its financial outlook, which came in a little below analyst expectations.

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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