THUNDER BAY – OPINION – I certainly hope Thomas Walkom is correct when he argues that “unless the rules of politics have changed completely, the plant will stay in business and jobs will be preserved.”
I was the president of Unifor Local 1075 representing workers at the Bombardier Thunder Bay plant from 1999 until 2011. For several years, I was deeply involved in helping secure the contracts soon to be completed, on schedule.
Others have commented that this is nothing new, that employment at the plant is cyclical. This is partly true, the “cycle” depending on government orders. Unlike automobiles, refrigerators, etc, mass transit rail vehicles are only purchased by governments or government agencies such as the TTC, hence, orders are entirely dependent on the political will of governments.
At present, the outlook is not promising. The Justin Trudeau federal government awarded a major Via Rail order to Siemens, to be produced in California. The Ford government in Ontario has stated it will ensure Metrolinx orders 36 bi-level commuter cars, but at current production schedules, that is only 72 days’ work. The “cycle” is definitely back, and political commitment to public transit and Canadian content are not evident.
The Thunder Bay economy needs this highly qualified workforce to be employed — as a former two-term Thunder Bay city councillor, I know it is a major piece of the municipal economy.