The closure announcement of GM’s Oshawa Assembly Plant is a huge wake up call for our leadership in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park. This is not just an Oshawa problem – this is an issue that will have ripple effects across our nation and certainly in Ontario. Here is the problem: our government leaders are being reactive, rather than proactive. This needs to change now!
How does the Oshawa plant, which is one of the most award-winning facilities on the planet – and at one time considered one of the largest auto plants in the world – meet its demise on a rainy Monday morning in November alongside four other facilities in the US?
Simply put, we did not have our finger on the pulse of GM, or the future lane the auto industry is driving onto at high-speed. That is not acceptable and should not be tolerated. Platitudes are nice – Prime Minister Trudeau said he is very disappointed, Premier Ford said he asked the question of “what could be done?” several times – but platitudes do not solve the serious problem we are facing in this sector.
We need vision and innovation from our most senior leaders and the senior staff who work for them. Saving our auto industry must be a major priority and we should not sit idly by and watch its demise as we did our aviation industry. Let’s not let history repeat itself. We cannot afford to let that happen.
So here is a concept for our prime minister and premier. Call GM CEO, Mary Barra, and book a meeting in the GM Detroit headquarters boardroom. Here is the draft agenda:
Item 1 – Build a new state of the art plant to assemble the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles in Oshawa.
Item 2 – The plant will be a world leader in electric car assembly – better than Tesla’s new $5 billion plant in Nevada.
Item 3 – Joint Venture: Ottawa and Queen’s Park will pledge $2.5 billion dollars today for a commitment to make Ontario a world leader in green auto technology and continue Oshawa’s 100 year GM legacy in building excellent vehicles for the next generation of car drivers.
Item 4 – Remind CEO Barra that Canada and the US bailed out GM ten years ago, saving it from driving over the cliff. A little respect and loyalty would be appreciated given their plants in Mexico and China remain untouched by this global restructuring.
Canada needs to negotiate stronger deals when handing out financial support with companies like GM to ensure there is a legacy commitment with meaningful contracts that protect federal investment. Too often we see short time horizons that allow a company to cut and run, leaving taxpayers abandoned, people without jobs, and an economic sector in jeopardy.
Canadians need to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Oshawa and let our government leaders know we need to think and act differently than four-year election cycles. Let’s create a long-term vision to lead the next generation of auto technology globally.
In order to protect our future we need to invest today – tomorrow is too late.
Alexander Lutchin has served in senior leadership roles across several sectors. His passion is developing high performance teams and seeing organizations and individuals reach their maximum potential. He currently serves as CEO of Career Compass Canada and Executive Coach Global – two firms that specialize in comprehensive HR strategies and Leadership Development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org