Ontario, Michigan pledge closer economic ties

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Windsor Star/Grace Macaluso


Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday plans to hammer out a “memorandum of understanding” designed to boost their respective auto industries.

“The fact that two-way trade between Ontario and Michigan in 2015 was $74 billion demonstrates how important we are to each other, and how important it is that we find even more ways to work together,” Wynne said during a “roundtable” with Detroit and Canadian reporters. “The reality is as an auto jurisdiction, we’re really looking at a regional cluster here. I’m hoping we will be able to finalize that (memorandum of understanding) to find more ways to co-operate and make each other strong; leverage the strength of each of our highly educated workforces and the skills that we bring to the auto sector.”

Snyder said promoting Ontario’s and Michigan’s automotive strengths — skilled workforce, research and development centres of excellence, parts suppliers — will help the region compete globally against lower cost jurisdictions in Mexico and the U.S. south.

“We’re the heart of the automotive industry in this region of North America, and I think we can do more together to help promote that in terms of getting the message out to the world that it’s not about the lowest labour costs,” said Snyder. “It’s about having the highest quality products built by the greatest skilled workers who do great engineering; it’s about the great things we’re doing in mobility and intelligent vehicles area. We are at the centre of that, and we need to continue that dialogue.”

The two leaders also said they were confident that the Gordie Howe International Bridge would be completed by the 2020 deadline.

“I’m looking forward to being on the Gordie Howe bridge physically in the next few years,” said Snyder, adding that the third crossing will not only ease cross-border delays but help the region’s integrated auto industries. “This is one of the best things we can do; not to have delays of products going across the bridge. It will help grow our economy and jobs on both sides of the border.”

Wynne also offered to lend Ontario’s expertise in clean water management to the governor as his state continues to cope with the Flint water crisis. Fifteen years ago, Ontario implemented reforms as a result of the outbreak of E.coli contamination that occurred in the Walkerton water system.

“Ontario has an interest in helping Michigan, so I thought that was wonderful that they would make their key people available,” said Snyder. “If Ontario is willing to help, we should take them up on that in terms of looking at how their water systems are installed, how they’re managed and the materials they use.”

Wynne ‘anxious’ over a Trump presidency

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne weighed in on American politics Wednesday, saying the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency made her feel “anxious.”

“Far be it from me to come into another country and have an opinion, but I will say that because we are such close and important neighbours we are obviously interested in a stable, open United States government,” Wynne said in response to questions from Detroit media.

“Canada and the United States have a fundamentally important partnership, so I certainly, as the premier of the largest province in Canada, would be looking for a federal government in the U.S. that was open to a co-operative relationship and not a divisive, hostile relationship.”

Earlier in the day, Wynne told an auto industry conference in Windsor that a Trump win in the November elections would be “problematic, politically and economically.”