Canadian taxpayers are being played for suckers and enough is enough.
The latest bombshell from General Motors is the announcement of the elimination of 15,000 jobs across North America. In real terms, 15,000 households will lose their primary source of income. Along with that are the tens of thousands of families who work in spin-off businesses who will also be in jeopardy.
In Oshawa alone, it’s estimated that the GM operations result in more than a billion dollars in federal and provincial taxes being paid every year and 33,000 spin-off jobs are linked to the city’s automobile industry. The closure of the plant there will also see more than $5 billion cut from Ontario’s gross domestic product. The impact will be far reaching.
It was less than a decade ago that Canadian taxpayers bailed out General Motors to the tune of more than $10 billion, accepting the argument that it was all about saving jobs. In reality, it turns out it was all about saving stockholders, banks and billionaires.
At the end of the day, the very rich will all be looked after. Within hours of the announcement of the job cuts, GM stock prices jumped by more than five per cent. It’s a sick world where the loss of jobs of hard-working people is good news for those who, when it comes to making cars, have not invested a minute of labour or a drop of sweat.
Corporate welfare is a booming industry in Canada where fully half of the tax collected from corporations is returned in loans and bailouts.
General Motors, Pratt & Whitney, Bombardier, De Havilland and CAE Inc. (formerly Canadian Aviation Electronics) are just some of the many companies and corporations that have benefited from taxpayer generosity with little in the way of guarantees for Canadians.
While students, for example, struggle under the weight of massive debt, General Motors has seen significant loans and grants forgiven or written off. The company pays no income taxes and won’t for years because of losses it claimed in 2009 even though at the same time it was gifted with billions in taxpayer dollars to keep its operations afloat.
Today, General Motors is a highly profitable company reporting a third-quarter pre-tax profit increase of $630 million from a year earlier to $3.2 billion.
In making the announcement to close plants, GM claims it needs to cut 15 per cent of its workforce to make itself more “nimble” to be able to meet the challenge of electric vehicles and self-driving technology. It pretends that somehow this can’t be done with existing plants and workers where change in product and manufacturing methods has been an ongoing feature of the industry.
Can anyone be naïve enough to believe that flexibility is the real issue rather than the $2 an hour GM pays Mexican workers? Is anyone foolish enough to think the motivation here is anything more than making stockholders richer?
When GM came running to the taxpayer for help, it lost its right to make unilateral decisions devoid of social responsibility. The federal and provincial governments cannot simply stand by and watch GM pack up its belongings and move jobs out of Canada. It can’t be a one-way street where so-called private enterprise can come running to government for a hand-out when the going gets tough and then simply walk away when profits are strong.
General Motors must be called to account.
Dan Oldfield is a former CBC reporter and lead negotiator for the Canadian Media Guild and currently a partner in Syzygy Learning and Facilitation.
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