Todd Smith, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, speaks at the APMA Conference at Caesars Windsor, June 12, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Ontario removing roadblocks in regional auto industry

The Ontario government is confident its auto sector plan will help protect automotive jobs.

Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte and the provincial Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, laid out the details of the plan at the APMA Conference at Caesars Windsor Wednesday morning. Smith said the plan is the delivery of a promise made by the government to lift regulations in the auto industry that were perceived to be bad for both business and labour.

Speaking to reporters after his remarks next to an autonomous vehicle on display, Smith said it was all about making it easier for auto companies to invest in Ontario.

“What today’s announcement really is all about is removing some of that over-regulation that’s making it difficult for the auto manufacturers, and those in the sector, to be as competitive as they obviously can be,” said Smith.

There were two specific changes made as examples of the red tape currently facing the auto sector. The first involves auto manufacturers and their procedures for fueling new cars on site before they are driven to a distribution centre or dealership. Under the current system, these manufacturers must apply for an exemption from having their facility regulated as a gas station. Smith said the new system will eliminate that requirement.

The second change concerns changes auto companies may want to make to their infrastructure. The threshold for when the Ontario Ministry of Labour comes in for inspections will go up to $250,000. Smith said the previous level was only getting costly and cumbersome.

“When they want to go some construction upgrades in their facility, [such as] put in new washrooms or a new kitchen or another piece of equipment, $50,000 was the threshold,” said Smith. “That’s far too low.”

Smith said the province is currently working on a Job Site Challenge, which will allow municipalities to pitch areas where auto sector businesses could be built or expanded. The challenge will be formally revealed this summer, with the plan to have the first certified sites ready for investors by the fall of 2020.