May 5, 2021
SENT VIA EMAIL
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health, MP for Thunder Bay – Superior North
The Honourable Doug Ford, M.P.P., Premier of Ontario
The Honourable Peter Bethlenfalvy, M.P.P., Ontario Minister of Finance
The Honourable Victor Fedeli, M.P.P., Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
Open Letter Re: Urgent Need to Order Transit Vehicles from Alstom Thunder Bay
It is past time to follow through on your promise to deliver better public transit and protect good jobs by ordering made-in-Canada public transit vehicles from the Alstom (formerly Bombardier) plant in Thunder Bay.
The workers at Alstom’s Thunder Bay facility are fully capable of building many of the light rail vehicles we need in Ontario and across the country. The federal and provincial funding has been committed but the orders have not been placed. Without the actual orders, there is no work for the Alstom plant in Thunder Bay. The solution is in your hands. Yet both levels of government continue to point fingers at each other instead of getting the job done.
Unifor has been raising alarm bells about the Thunder Bay facility’s emptying order book since 2018. For three years, the province has known that new public transit vehicle orders were needed to keep the plant open. The solution couldn’t be more clear.
Together, Metrolinx and the TTC have plans to order hundreds of light rail vehicles, including subway cars, street cars and bi-levels, in the very near future. The Thunder Bay facility can manufacture them all.
The federal, provincial and municipal governments have already publicly committed to funding for these projects.
The TTC approved an additional tax levy in 2020 in order to support approximately one-third of the cost of TTC expansion and vehicle replacement.
In February, the federal government announced an additional $14.9 billion in public transit infrastructure funding over eight years. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, stated that the money is ready to be deployed as soon as projects are ready.
The Ontario government has repeatedly informed us that the money is there, but it refuses to make an announcement because it doesn’t want to move first.
What is the purpose of this standoff? While you continue to play political games, the city of Thunder Bay is at risk of losing hundreds of good jobs and having its economy derailed.
At the beginning of 2019, the facility employed around 1,100 people. Since then, work has dried up and employment has shrunk dramatically. Today, only about 300 workers remain on the job.
Our union started advocating for orders years ago because we wanted to avoid this exact predicament. We planned ahead. Why didn’t you?
There is only one order currently in the plant that will continue passed July. It is a 28-car project for two transit authorities in the United States.
Let that sink in. At a time when the Canadian public is inundated with government promises to spend billions on transit vehicles, the only program sustaining the facility is an American transit order.
Thunder Bay lost nearly 5,000 jobs during the pandemic. Getting the plant back up to full capacity should be a top priority of this province and the federal government. Doing so will bring back good Canadian jobs that both governments agree are essential to our economic recovery.
It’s time for you to commit to the hard-working people of Thunder Bay. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. It’s time to put an order in and make your promises of better transit and good manufacturing jobs a reality.
National President, Unifor