The full article by Bob Boughner of the Chatham Daily News can be found here
Dave Van Kesteren’s request for a comprehensive study of Canada’s medium and heavy-duty truck manufacturing sector has been granted by Ottawa.
Industry Ministry Tony Clement announced the study Tuesday and called for a report to be delivered to government by spring.
Van Kesteren, MP for Chatham-Kent Essex, is “thrilled” his federal counterparts have acted on the recommendation he made earlier this year.
Even without Navistar, Van Kesteren says trucking is a vital part of Chatham-Kent and southwestern Ontario.
“My hope is that the study focuses on moving the trucking industry forward,” said Van Kesteren, in a telephone interview at his Ottawa office.
He said the study should focus on what the truck manufacturing industry looks like now and how Canada can position itself to again be a leader in the industry.
Van Kesteren also wants the study to include the possible use of alternative fuels, such as natural gas, for the trucking industry.
Citing Canada’s surplus of cheap natural gas, the MP would like to see truck engine development in the region as well as more investment in refueling stations.
Van Kesteren is also calling for tax incentives for natural gas-fuelled trucks.
He said with or without the Navistar truck facility in Chatham there is an urgent need to maintain and expand the trucking industry presence in this part of Canada.
The Navistar Chatham plant has been idled since July 2009 when the company laid off its last 370 workers. More than 2,000 area residents were employed at the Richmond Street facility in the late 1990s.
Although the company hasn’t officially closed the plant, it’s been reported a decision will be made sometime this year.
Little was agreed on at a recent meeting between CAW and Navistar officials in Windsor called to talk about the future of the Chatham facility.
The company says it will continue to keep lines of communication open with the CAW, although no future meetings are scheduled.
Regardless of what happens to the mothballed plant, Van Kesteren sees natural gas power as a key driver for Chatham-Kent in the future.
“The point I want to make is that there is much more than manufacturing that can be done to boost the trucking sector in southwestern Ontario,” he said.
Van Kesteren is hopeful the study will provide valuable insight into the trucking sector and its key suppliers, particularly in terms of output and employment.
He said the information gathered in the study is expected to provide benchmarks to identify and track trends in the industry over time.
According to Clement, the initiative will provide the federal government with analysis of the Canadian truck manufacturing sector and its suppliers by highlighting the industry’s strengths, weaknesses and capacity.
“Going forward, this information will support Industry Canada’s work related to transportation manufacturing industries in Canada,” he said, in a media release.
CAW Local 127 president Aaron Neaves claims Van Kesteren has “missed the boat.”
He said trucks sold in Canada by Navistar should be manufactured in Canada – not in Mexico or Ohio.
“The only study needed on the trucking industry is one requiring Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make it mandatory trucks sold in Canada are produced in Canada,” he said.
Bob Chernecki, assistant to CAW president Ken Lewenza, said the study is a “diversion” to the troubling fact the provincial and federal governments won’t force Navistar to live up to its financial commitments to the governments and to the Navistar workers.
“What’s to study?” he asked. “There is little left.”
Chernecki said rather than conducting a study, Ottawa should be focusing on how to get the Chatham plant reopened.
He said no one from government has bothered to contact the CAW asking for its input into a trucking industry study.