TORONTO — Union leaders and politicians who talk about saving a General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont., are selling “false hope,” Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday, as an opposition critic accused him of politicizing the closure in order to attack the federal carbon tax.
Ford held a news conference after an emergency cabinet meeting on the GM closure Wednesday afternoon. The premier accused Jerry Dias, the leader of the union representing the affected autoworkers, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other politicians of grandstanding when they pledged to fight the closure.
“When we hear any of these people talking all we hear are a bunch of powerful people grandstanding,” he said. “They’re busy picking fights and raising false hope. But in private they know the GM plant is not coming back.”
Ford said the fight ahead for the 2,500 autoworkers affected by the looming plant closure is to find new jobs, and he promised to help them with that.
He said he believes the firm had been contemplating the move for a long time, and speculated that had he been premier before the June election that perhaps he could have averted the closure.
“GM didn’t decide this in the six months (after) Doug Ford took over,” Ford said. “Matter of fact, if Doug Ford was here for five years they probably wouldn’t have left because I would have lowered their taxes, lowered their hydro rates … and made it attractive for companies to stay here.”
WATCH: Doug Ford renews call to scrap carbon tax in wake of GM plant closure in Oshawa, ON
Ford used the news conference to call on Trudeau to scrap his plan to impose a carbon tax on the provinces as a way to help spur job creation in Ontario and across the country. He called on Trudeau, whom he will meet with at a first minister’s conference in Montreal next week, to abandon the carbon pricing plan.
“You can’t campaign for a job-killing carbon tax on Monday and sit around and wonder why manufacturing and automotive jobs are leaving on Tuesday.”
Ontario Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford is erroneously linking the closure of the GM plant in Oshawa with putting a price on pollution.
“Politicizing the GM plant closure for an anti-climate crusade is irresponsible,” Schreiner said. “Instead of attacking the clean economy, I’m asking the premier to embrace this $26 trillion economic opportunity. I’m calling on the premier to work with stakeholders to develop an auto strategy for Ontario to lead the (electric vehicle) revolution, not lose jobs to jurisdictions who are embracing electric vehicles.”
WATCH: Unifor head fights to save GM’s Oshawa plant
Dias fired back at Ford on social media, taking issue with his claim that the focus should be on finding the impacted GM workers other employment.
“Find new jobs? Seriously – is this the best that @fordnation can do?” Dias said in a brief statement on Twitter.
Reached in Washington, D.C., by a Toronto TV station, Dias responded to Ford’s “false hope” comment by saying the premier is offering auto workers “no hope” and should be ashamed of himself.
NDP legislator Jennifer French, who represents Oshawa at Queen’s Park, said families in the community have a year to fight GM’s decision — and they plan to do so.
“I would never give anyone false hope but I would never give up hope,” she said. “There’s a big difference. We are facing an uncertain and rocky road ahead of us. But there is always something to fight for. The premier underestimates Oshawa.”
Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will continue to fight for the workers in Oshawa. He also defended the federal government’s carbon pricing plan as a job creator.
“The best way to secure jobs for the future is to take genuine action on climate change and help our economy and our families to thrive through the transition to a lower carbon economy,” he said during question period. “The members opposite have no plan and instead just try to play politics.”