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Automotive

GM, Unifor announce investment in Oshawa plant that will save 300 jobs

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TORONTO — The union representing Canadian auto workers claimed a partial victory Tuesday after General Motors Canada announced an Oshawa, Ont., plant slated to close later this year will be converted to a part-stamping and autonomous vehicle testing facility.

Unifor and GM Canada said the transition will cost $170 million and save 300 of the 2,600 union jobs at the plant, with the potential to attract more jobs as the facility attracts new customers.

GM Canada president Travis Hester, who announced the so-called “Transformation Agreement” alongside Unifor national president Jerry Dias, said the Oshawa site will still end vehicle production at the end of 2019.

However, 22 hectares of the facility will be converted into a test track for autonomous and other advanced vehicles, which Hester said will help expand the nearby Canadian Technical Centre.

“I want to send a strong and positive message from GM to the people of Oshawa,” he said. “With our Canadian headquarters, our sales and marketing organization, the OnStar support centre, the Oshawa engineering centre, and the new announcements just mentioned here, GM plans to be one of Oshawa’s leading companies and employers for many decades to come.”

Dias, whose union suspended a media campaign against GM in March amid what it called productive talks with the automaker, called the agreement “innovative” but admitted it was far from a perfect solution.

“What I do know is you play the cards you’re dealt and you make the best out of a bad situation,” he said. “I will suggest that instead of us facing a hard closure in December of this year … we have an understanding between the parties of a long-term commitment.”

Dias said the agreement will help keep the company in Oshawa over the next decade.

“This announcement, though it may not have a lot of jobs as we sit here today in May, there’s going to be a heck of a lot more in December,” he said. “There’ll be more next year. There’ll be more the year after as we continue to attract work.”

A joint statement from GM Canada and Unifor said the company will offer relocations to other facilities in Ontario for those affected, as well as “enhanced retirement packages” to 1,300 eligible employees.

Industry observers said the automaker’s decision to repurpose the Oshawa plant could mark a turning point for the auto sector in Canada.

“GM has a real strong R&D centre in Oshawa and another one in Markham working on autonomous and electric vehicle issues,” said auto industry analyst Dennis Desrosiers. “Putting a test track in gives those jobs more security … but also potentially a real possibility of more jobs on the intellectual side of the industry.”

Federal Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said the government is encouraged by the announcement.

“Just yesterday, Oshawa’s autoworkers were facing a completely uncertain future,” he said in a statement. “Today, GM has committed to providing work for hundreds of them at the plant and to supporting the others, and we want to see it through.”

Ontario Economic Development Minister Todd Smith said in a statement that the province welcomes the agreement, calling it good news for the City of Oshawa and the surrounding region.

“We are glad this historic site will continue to be a hub for vehicle parts manufacturing, technological innovation and regional economic growth,” Smith said.

However, he acknowledged that many workers still face an “uncertain future,” saying the government is working with Unifor and GM to support affected employees and their families.

Christo Aivalis, a labour relations expert at the University of Toronto, said the deal is a victory for the union, which launched a months-long public relations campaign against GM.

“I think Unifor was able to tap into a sense that these are good jobs for Canadian workers and GM has, for a long time, had a lot of loyalty from Canadian consumers,” he said. “Maybe (GM) saw real pressure from Unifor and that trickled down into the general public and they felt that there was real risk that a total closure would cause real brand damage.”

Adam Burns and Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press




Alberta

Insurance rate increases absolutely unacceptable: NDP Critic for Service Alberta

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This post was submitted by Jon Carson, NDP MLA for Edmonton-West Henday, Opposition Critic for Service Alberta

Thirty per cent.

That’s how much auto insurance rates skyrocketed by for some Albertans at the end of this year, after Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP removed the five per cent cap on rate increases that our NDP government brought in, taking a “no limit” approach to how much insurance companies could actually raise rates.

The jump was immediate.

Albertans saw a wave of premium increases bordering on price gouging. Over 90% of car insurance companies filed for rate increases as soon as the cap was lifted, and rushed to bill drivers as soon as they could. Of the companies that received approved rate changes, the increases ranged from 4.9 per cent to an eye-popping 29.8 per cent.

It was a nice gift from Jason Kenney, who already slammed families for hundreds of dollars of new costs in his fall budget, including hikes to income tax, property tax, as well as more in school fees, prescription drugs and college tuition.

As usual, Finance Minister Travis Toews trotted out the UCP’s one-trick pony and blamed the NDP, claiming that insurance companies were set to pack their bags and flee the province if he didn’t let them jack up premiums beyond five per cent.

The lobbying effort came out in full force. The brokers, the insurance companies, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada are working overtime to sell quite the sob story: a massive spike in claims costs, not enough options for drivers, etc, etc. It’s tough times for the poor, little ol’ car insurance company.

What a load. These are some of the biggest and most profitable companies in Canada, and they simply want back the power they had to jack up premiums hand over fist.

The truth is that claims costs over the past few years are level, a fact that’s supported by the Insurance Bureau of Canada‘s own data. In fact, an actuarial analysis by Fair Alberta Injury Regulators, an organization made up of concerned Albertans, doctors and legal experts, found that injury payouts have stabilized in the last few years, and even started to dip in 2019. Their actuary specifically found evidence that claims are “not skyrocketing.”

This is further supported by the Alberta Superintendent of Insurance, responsible for all regulatory oversight of insurers operating in Alberta with a specific duty to ensure that insurance companies treat Albertans fairly. In his annual report for 2018, he found on average that the claims ratio for car insurance was 80 per cent across all companies in Alberta. Not the 120 per cent figure the insurance companies trot out on TV.

And while the UCP Government continues to claim they have documents to prove the cap made the car insurance industry unsustainable, they haven’t provided a single piece of paper showing any of these companies would bail if they could–GASP–only raise premiums five per cent every year.

So why remove the cap? Well, in politics, it’s who you know. And Jason Kenney knows an awful lot of people in the insurance industry. Namely, his former chief of staff and campaign director Nick Koolsbergen, who was hired to lobby the Premier on behalf of the car insurance industry just last year. He has Kenney’s cell phone number.

Sounds like a good guy to have on your side… if you’re a car insurance company.

The fact is, these companies turn a profit of tens of millions of dollars each year. They’re used to having carte blanche in Alberta, and they want it back.

Under the thinly-veiled guise of “red tape reduction”, the UCP has struck a panel looking at more regulatory changes that the insurance lobby itself has said “could also change the rate regulation framework that governs how insurers set premiums.”

If costs are going to go up even more, who will Jason Kenney look out for? His friends and interests in big insurance? Or everyday Albertans driving to work?

Knowing Jason Kenney, Albertans should brace for impact.

Jon Carson is the MLA for Edmonton-West Henday and the Alberta NDP Opposition Critic for Service Alberta.

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Automotive

Is it time for a Wheel Alignment?

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Bad roads can be your wheels’ worst enemy. If you drive down poorly maintained roads, drive through potholes, or even hit a curb, your alignment can be greatly affected. This can cause even the slightest, tiniest alignment issue, which can accelerate uneven tire wear. Make sure you have your alignment checked every 9,500 km or every other oil change. Your tires and your wallet will thank you later. Uneven tire wear is a symptom of bad wheel alignment. Ideally, tires should wear evenly across the tread. If you’re noticing excessive wear on the rear inside tires, you may have too much junk in the trunk or need an alignment adjustment.

Uneven tire wear can also result in less KPL’s and more pain at the gas pump. How will a wheel alignment help my vehicle? Repeat after us: A wheel alignment ensures optimal drivability. It will help your tires last longer, your vehicle drive smoother, ultimately keeping your wheels pointed in the right direction. And, when it drives more smoothly, it’s smooth sailing—or should we say cruising—ahead. Plus, your car will require less energy to keep going, potentially saving a ton of fuel depending on how much alignment was required. Tires are expensive. Keeping them aligned isn’t.

How will a wheel alignment help my vehicle?

Repeat after us: A wheel alignment ensures optimal drivability. It will help your tires last longer, your vehicle drive smoother, ultimately keeping your wheels pointed in the right direction. And, when it drives more smoothly, it’s smooth sailing—or should we say cruising—ahead. Plus, your car will require less energy to keep going, potentially saving a ton of fuel depending on how much alignment was required. Tires are expensive. Keeping them aligned isn’t.

How can I tell if my car’s alignment is off?

There are some noticeable signs that could indicate a misalignment. Just use your eyes, ears and hands. Your senses (and even the good old personal hunch) are good human capital for spotting poor alignment. Here are some common signs that you are dealing with wheels with poor alignment:

• Vehicle pulling to the left or right

• Uneven or rapid tire wear

• Your steering wheel is crooked when driving straight

• Squealing tires

Call to book 403.343.6633 or book your appointment at kippscott.ca

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september, 2020

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