Flags fly outside a Bombardier plant in Montreal, on May 14, 2015. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Bombardier plans to lay off 550 workers trigger political sniping

Federal Liberals and the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario took pot shots at each other Wednesday over looming layoffs at Bombardier’s railway car plant in Thunder Bay, Ont., that could see nearly half of the employees lose their jobs.

The Canadian transportation giant confirmed Wednesday that it plans to lay off 550 employees effective on Nov. 4, 2019.

“This decision is due to the cyclical nature of our business and the ramp down of our two high cadence programs,” Bombardier said in a statement. “Metrolinx BiLevel and TTC LRV are synchronized and both programs will be ending within a few weeks of each other with no orders to follow.”

Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu blasted Ontario Premier Doug Ford for failing 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,” she said. “His government let these critical investments lapse.”

Ontario Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli accused Hajdu of “playing politics” and blamed the federal government for dragging its foot on major infrastructure investments in Canada’s largest province.

“Instead of working with the province to support Ontario’s historic $28.5 billion transit expansion plan before the election, Minister Hajdu would rather play politics, than push her cabinet colleagues to approve a plan that Bombardier can bid on, build cars for, and keep good paying jobs in Thunder Bay,” Fedeli said in a statement.

“While Ontario has met with Bombardier, Unifor, and offered to purchase $100 million of vehicles from the plant in the last month; where was Minister Hajdu?” Fedeli added, accusing the federal government of “missing in action.”

Bombardier said that in addition to the cyclical downturn, it also has to deal with the local content requirement threshold in the United States, which is set to increase to 70 per cent from the current 65 per cent this fall due to the protectionist policies of the Trump administration under its Buy America Act.

“In 2019, to deal with a 70 per cent local content requirement threshold in the United States, a company like Bombardier has no choice but to have an American manufacturing footprint and supply chain,” Bombardier said in a statement. “Therefore, we cannot fully leverage our Canadian manufacturing footprint and expertise.”

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