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Scant Canadian content target for new TTC streetcars, critics say

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 | 9:23 AM ET
CBC News

The TTC is preparing to award a $1 billion contract for hundreds of new streetcars, a deal that has led to intense lobbying by Bombardier, Siemens and other streetcar manufacturers.

At least 25 per cent of the new streetcars must be made in Canada, the TTC has decided, but that’s a lot less content than labour groups had been hoping for.

John Cartwright of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council said that if the TTC is going to spend more than $1 billion, as much of it as possible should stay in Canada. He points to an accepted practice in the United States, where transit vehicles must be at least 60 per cent American made.

But TTC general manager Gary Webster said that if the content requirement was any higher it would effectively eliminate all competitors except Bombardier.

“In order to go out to the world market, and include Canadian content, the recommendation is not to go any higher than 25 per cent,” said Webster.

TTC vice-chair Joe Mihevc said a balance had to be struck when setting the requirement for a minimum of 25 per cent Canadian content. Continue Article

“We want to be able to make a choice between the best that is out there. We want the best possible vehicle in Toronto. We have great staff that is able to evaluate what is the best. And the only way we’re going to find that out is through a competitive process. So we have struck the right balance between good competition and preserving and enhancing good manufacturing jobs in Canada,” he said.

Streetcar manufacturers from around the world are fighting hard to build Toronto’s new streetcars.

Siemens of Germany, Skoda of the Czech Republic, Alstom from France and others are interested.

It could mean the streetcars won’t be assembled in Canada, even though some of the components may be made here.

Most manufacturers, including Bombardier, construct their streetcars in Europe.

TTC chair Adam Giambrone said the 25 per cent minimum is a start. Giambrone said it “is the first time there has been a Canadian content provision in a competitive bid for transit vehicles.”

If the TTC keeps to its schedule, it will choose a winning bid in the summer of 2008.

The new streetcars could be rolling along Toronto’s streets in 2011.