Nestled in the southwest corner of the province, with the United States as a backdrop, the city of Windsor is synonymous with the automobile.

The city saw better days, when industrial jobs numbered in the tens of thousands. The region has been through several crises since, but here, resilience is in people’s DNA.

That’s a lot of the jobs that have been lost here in Windsor. »

A quote from Denis Desaulniers, employee at the manufacturer Stellantis

Denis Desaulniers talks about the Chrysler Pacifica with passion. He knows all the features of the minivan, which is no wonder, since he works on the assembly line. It’s a solid car, it’s not like the other minivans we built before. When you drive it’s like floating in the airlaunches Denis, with pride.

Denis Desaulniers is responsible for the delivery of parts for the assembly of the doors of the Chrysler Pacifica, in Windsor.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Sales of the Pacifica, however, were disappointing. Manufacturer Stellantis has slowed production and further layoffs are being considered by the summer. In his 28-year career, Denis has become accustomed to the vagaries of the automotive industry, but this time he admits that the region needs a breath of fresh air.

The electric cars have to arrive to bring us back to our three shifts. It’s urgent, because everyone wants to work. »

A quote from Denis Desaulniers

At the end of March, the Ford government announced with great fanfare the arrival of a new battery factory for electric vehicles. The project led by the electronics giant LG and the manufacturer Stellantis is valued at five billion dollars. The province’s financial contribution, like Ottawa’s, was not disclosed.

Premier Doug Ford at the lectern, during an announcement on investments for the automotive sector.

Premier Doug Ford would not confirm the amount granted to LG and Stellantis to support the installation of a battery factory in Windsor.

Photo: (Mike Evans/CBC)

With the 2,500 new jobs that will be created, the new plant could become the symbol of Windsor’s renewal. The first chapter of a green transition for the city.

An assembly line.

The Chrysler Pacifica is assembled in Windsor, Ontario.

Photo: The Associated Press/Carlos Osorio

In early May, the province presented another check to Stellantis, this time to support the modernization of its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants. Recent government announcements to support and stimulate the auto industry give hope to workers like Denis.

The government finally sees how important the auto sector is in Canada. ‘Cause I think we’ve been forgotten for many yearshe explains.

Provincial funding for the auto sector announced before the start of the election :

  • $131 million for Honda Canada (announced March 16),

  • unknown amount for the LG-Stellantis plant (announced on March 23),

  • $259 million for GM Canada (announced April 4),

  • $513 million for the modernization of the Stellantis factories (announced on May 2).

A plus for the next generation of workers

It’s oral presentation day at St. Clair College. Graduation is approaching for third-year students in the Automotive Product Design program.

The timing of a new battery plant in Windsor couldn’t be better for this next generation of workers.

Automotive Product Design students work on engines in a lab classroom at St. Clair College.

Automotive Product Design students work on engines in a lab classroom at St. Clair College.

Photo: Radio-Canada

There are many jobs that will soon be available in Windsor. If the right opportunity arises, I will definitely jump on itreplies Luke Kelly. It will lift our spirits and hopefully allow us to remain the leaders in the automotive industry, which we have always been.adds his classmate, Matthew Penner.

Professor Dale Haggith in a mechanical lab at St. Clair College.

Professor Dale Haggith mainly teaches concepts related to combustion engines, but his department at St. Clair College wants to offer a new program dedicated to the electric car.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Management is studying the possibility of launching a new course to better prepare its students for the electric car market.

We are thinking of offering a new program dedicated not only to electric vehicles, but also to battery technology, energy storage and distribution.explains the coordinator, Dale Haggith.

Infrastructure and co.

It’s a busy morning at Firestone Garage in downtown Windsor. Marc Thibert is called in as reinforcements to repair a capricious engine.

I am with gas and diesel engines. I know how to fix those. But electric is a little different, admits the mechanic. However, Mr. Thibert has no illusions: in a few years he will have to relearn his trade.

Marc Thibert stands among the cars in the Firestone garage in Windsor.

Marc Thibert would like a boost from the province so that his garage can offer more services for electric vehicles.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Like many others, his garage is not specialized in electric vehicles. Employees do not have the expertise or the necessary equipment. The election campaign is therefore the perfect opportunity for parties to engage beyond the manufacture of batteries and cars. For example, Mr. Thibert hopes for initiatives that could help companies like his, which will also have to adapt to the electric transition.

I know that my boss is finding ways to train us, to do all that, to change the equipment. »

A quote from Marc Thibert, Manager, Firestone Windsor Garage

It’s no secret that Councilman Kieran McKenzie is an NDP supporter.

Councilman Kieran McKenzie.

Councilman Kieran McKenzie.

Photo: Radio-Canada

But he welcomes and encourages any effort, across all parties, to ease the transition to a world of electric cars.

Achieving this will require an efficient and accessible network of charging stations and investments to support this industry. He invites politicians to seize the ball on the leap.

An electric car in a parking lot with a charging station in Windsor.

According to several experts, infrastructure development is an important factor in encouraging the growing use of electric vehicles.

Photo: Radio-Canada

The challenge before us now is infrastructure. As a municipal councillor, I am in contact with all the people who want to be electedsays the Councilor for District 9.

Too little, too late

In Windsor, recent investments in the auto industry are being welcomed as a lifeline. Everyone will tell you that. However, another observation seems to be unanimous: the Ford government has dragged its feet in recent years.

Doug Ford at an announcement in the Windsor-Essex area.

Doug Ford at an announcement in the Windsor-Essex area.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Geoff Robins

It could have come much soonerlaunches Denis Desaulniers. We could have moved everyone a little faster. Governments certainly, but perhaps also industryalso believes Kieran McKenzie.

The elimination of the provincial rebate for the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles is also singled out. In 2018, the Ford government’s decision caused sales to plummet in Ontario and had no effect on the order book for the Chrysler Pacifica. With the exception of the Progressive Conservatives, all major political parties are proposing the return of the discounts.

A promotional photo of a Chrysler Pacifica.

Chrysler offers a combustion version and a hybrid version of the Chrysler Pacifica.

Photo: FCA

As Windsor prepares for the next chapter in its industrial history, government support will be essential to ensure the transition.

I haven’t decided yet, I’m still looking admits student Matthew Penner, when asked which party will get his vote.

Voters want to hear leaders share their vision for the auto sector before they vote. Many are waiting for more promises that could fuel hope for a healthier industry.

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