Published on Friday, 30 September 2011
Next Thursday, Ontario residents will head to the polls to elect a new government. To say that this election has failed to capture the interest or imagination of the electorate would be a huge understatement.
Although I'll refrain from endorsing any party, I do want to emphasize an issue that's been largely absent from the political discussion and campaign trail thus far: namely, the importance of the auto sector to the Ontario economy.
All candidates should be touting our industry as a growing catalyst for job creation and economic growth in Ontario.
To put it into perspective, the auto sector is Canada's largest manufacturing sector, supporting approximately 400,000 direct and indirect jobs. Those jobs are heavily concentrated in Ontario, which is home to 14 assembly plants operated by six of the world's top automakers, and to more than 400 auto parts manufacturers.
In 2010, Ontario produced about 2 million vehicles, more than any other North American jurisdiction. Eighty-five per cent of those vehicles were exported to the U.S. and around the world.
Automobile dealerships represent a vital component of Ontario's auto sector. According to Statistics Canada, as a percentage of retail employment, auto dealerships in Ontario employ 7 per cent of the province's workforce. Last year, this retail segment produced revenues of $19.9 billion from new and used vehicle sales and employed more than 46,000 people.
The next time you purchase a vehicle from a new car dealer in Ontario, you are helping to support employment within your community, as well as a vast enterprise of automotive education, research and development across the province.
In addition to auto assembly plants, manufacturing facilities and auto dealerships, 44 respected universities and colleges and more than 24 public research centres are focused on commercializing next-generation automotive innovations.
Researchers at Ontario-based universities and other institutions are conducting research into advanced manufacturing and alternative and renewable energy. AUTO21, a Network of Centres of Excellence, is enhancing Canada's position as a leader in automotive research and development.
The General Motors of Canada Automotive Centre of Excellence at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology is a state-of-the-art research facility dedicated to further research and development in the Canadian automotive industry.
The Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR), an automotive research centre at the University of Waterloo, is focused on leading-edge studies to enhance automotive innovation and competitiveness.
Whichever party is elected on Oct. 6, Ontario needs a leader who actively supports and promotes the auto sector and who is prepared to make the necessary investments to build on its successes.
Admittedly, this election has limped along without a great deal of passion from the voting public. But the electorate still needs to fulfill its civic duty by getting out to vote.
The last provincial election in Ontario (2007) set a record for the lowest voter turnout ever — only 52 per cent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot. This is a shameful testament to the apathy and disengagement of almost half of the electorate. Everyone of voting age should be informed and get involved in the process of electing our next government.
In the past 10 months, the media have reported violent protests and uprisings in countries run by oppressive regimes.
Many of those involved in civic unrest are average folks advocating for the rights and freedoms that most of us take for granted.
I believe this is a decisive period in Ontario's history.
Our province requires true leadership that will continue to open doors in providing opportunities for employment, innovation and economic prosperity.