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Make streetcars in Canada, labour says

Jan 31, 2008 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski

When Ontario taxpayers are spending $1.2 billion on streetcars for Toronto, they should be built by Canadian workers, says the Toronto Labour Council.

It is calling on Queen’s Park to help protect Canada’s manufacturing sector, which labour leaders say lost 65,000 jobs in the last year, by demanding the TTC give the contract for 204 streetcars to a maker that will use at least half Canadian parts and labour.

It also wants Premier Dalton McGuinty to institute a policy, similar to one in the U.S., requiring 60 per cent parts and all assembly on major transit projects to be domestic.

The labour council estimates the TTC’s $710 million contract of subway cars to Bombardier in 2006 sustained 600 Canadian jobs.

The streetcar contract is believed to be the biggest municipal transit contract in Canadian history. The subway deal proved controversial when a German firm said it could have supplied the cars for millions less.

Bombardier is the only Canadian streetcar manufacturer.

In December, the TTC decided that 25 per cent, or about $300 million, of the parts and labour for Toronto’s new streetcars must be Canadian.

That decision was based on a consultant’s report that said the TTC would effectively shut out any non-Canadian bidders if it required more than one-quarter domestic parts and labour.

But at Queen’s Park yesterday, the labour council called the TTC’s report “deeply flawed.”

The council disputes the consultant’s suggestion that only a small portion of the streetcar body, none of the undercarriage and a third of the final assembly could be supplied by Canadian companies. The unions say nearly 40 per cent of those parts and work could be domestic.

They also say manufacturers would locate assembly plants here to service the contract as they have done in the U.S., where Kinkisharyo has put plants in six U.S. cities for orders of 30 to 100 cars.

In an Oct. 19 letter to the council, Infrastructure Renewal Minister David Caplan said that procurement policies are a municipal matter.