A well-known and respected northwestern Ontario forester and former public servant has been appointed to the newly formed Premier’s Council on U.S. Trade and Industry Competitiveness.
Michael Willick, president of M. L. Willick & Associates, of Fort Frances was one of 10 people chosen for this advocacy group, formed to bang against the U.S. "drum of protectionism."
Premier Doug Ford announced the creation of the council in December, chaired by Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
The group will offer advice and recommendations to protect Ontario’s rights under trade agreements and the jobs of the many Ontarians working in supply chain jobs.
A former assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Willick is chair of the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bioeconomy (CRIBE). He's also president of Boundary Waters Forest Management Corp.
His consulting firm provides advice to forestry and mining companies, First Nations and municipalities regarding forest licensing, softwood lumber negotiations, wood supply, environmental approvals and government relations.
His experiences include serving as Ontario's lead on softwood lumber negotiations with the U.S.
Along with Willick, joining Dias at the table are:
- David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada
- Catherine Cobden, president-CEO of the Canadian Steel Producers Association
- George Gilvesy, director and chair of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers
- Maryscott “Scotty” Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council
- Goldy Hyder, president-CEO, Business Council of Canada
- Brian Kingston, president-CEO, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association
- Craig McInnes, president of the Teamsters Local Union 938 in Ontario and member of the Teamsters Canada Executive Board
- Veso Sobot, former director and corporate Affairs at IPEX Management Inc.
- Flavio Volpe, CEO of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association
The province said this council has important work to do with protectionist trade measures being adopted by Washington that could threaten the Auto Pact as well as lumber, steel, agriculture and other key industries in Ontario.
A news release said this group will work with Ottawa and other trade-oriented partners on both sides of the border to ensure Ontario is "heard loud and clear in Washington, D.C."
“Ontario is the third-largest trading partner to the United States, and a critical partner to more than half the states in the union," said Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Minister Vic Fedeli in a statement.
"The new members of the council, with the full support of our government, will continue to advocate for Ontario against unfair Buy American policies by highlighting the cost of protectionism to businesses on both sides of the border and promoting a Buy North American approach to our auto and other sectors.”
“We cannot underestimate the seriousness of the challenge and it will require a combination of stakeholders from all sectors of the economy to defend against U.S. isolationist measures that will hurt workers," said Dias in the release.
Cross-border trade between Ontario and the U.S. totalled $358 billion in 2020, accounting for 53 per cent of the total merchandise trade between Canada and the U.S., said the Ontario government. Ontario's automotive sector provides directly employment for nearly 100,000 Ontarians.