In 2016, with Trump's rhetoric in the U.S. in mind, I attended a townhall meeting then-councillor Frank Pullia was having at the Italian Cultural Centre, I asked him, the new CAO Norm Gale, and the CEDC CEO Doug Murray, what the city had in the way of contingency plans (break glass in case of emergency) for the loss of another major employer (in particular blue collar employers). I knew then the Bombardier (Alstom) plant had limited days left building passenger trains.
Why? Because the Canadian market is too small for the rail building capacity the country has. At present there is the capability in Canada to produce at least 9 simultaneous contacts at a time (3 in La Pocatiere, 3 in Thunder Bay, 1 in Kingston, 1 in Brampton, and 1 in Laval).
The response I received from these gentlemen, was underwhelming to say the least. I was asked what message it would send to these companies? My response? That as a city we are hell bent and determined to maintain good paying blue collar jobs in the jobs of the future and that we will do everything in our power to make that a reality.
Perhaps they thoughts I was naïve, but look where we are now.
The time is right now for the establishment of a CEDC-led committee to catalog the physical and human resources of the plant (later to be expanded to other businesses deemed critical to the economic foundations of the city), the industries that utilize such resources, and companies in those industries who are looking for expansion in the North American market.
Our politicians also need to make is clear to Alstom that the support they have enjoyed for years in our efforts to support contact bids with the TTC, will be turned against them if they refuse to participate in an orderly ownership transition for the plant and it's employees to a new industry.
The days of building trains at Canada Car are ending, but the plant has been here before and survived, what made the difference then and can make the difference now, is inspired political leadership.
Generations of Thunder Bay families have relied on the good jobs at that plant to put food on their tables and money into our economy, there is no reason for this to be the end of the Canada Car story, but we must write the next chapter, or Alstom will write it's conclusion.
We're counting on you Ken Boshcoff, Dominic Pasqualino, Brian Hamilton, Trevor Giertuga, Albert Aiello, Shelby Ch'ng, Kristen Oliver, Mark Bentz, Rajni Agarwal, Kasey Etreni, Andrew Foulds, Michael Zussino, Greg Johnsen, Marcus Powlowski, Patty Hajdu.