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Trudeau blasts Poilievre at Volkswagen plant announcement

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on hand Friday for the official announcement of a new battery plant that will bring thousands of auto sector jobs to southwestern Ontario — and he accused his main political opponent, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, of standing in the way of the deal.

Canada has secured a $7-billion commitment from German automaker Volkswagen to build a massive battery plant in St. Thomas, Ont., an industrial community about 30 minutes south of London.

The factory, which will supply batteries for electric vehicles, has been billed by Trudeau as a “generational investment” in Ontario’s auto sector — a project the government says will create 3,000 direct jobs and ten of thousands of spin-off jobs.

The Trudeau government calls it a coup for Canada. Countries around the world are in a fierce competition to land plants like this.

Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker by revenue, has only two other such plants under development — in Germany and Spain.

To secure the “gigafactory,” which is expected to eventually produce enough batteries for a million cars a year, Canada has had to commit a lot of public money to the project.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at Volkswagen car during at tour of St. Thomas, Ont.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives to make an announcement on a Volkswagen electric vehicle battery plant at the Elgin County Railway Museum in St. Thomas, Ont., Friday, April 21, 2023. (Tara Walton/Canadian Press)

To start, Volkswagen will get about $700 million from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund to begin construction.

Then there will be production subsidies, which could cost the federal treasury $8-13 billion in total, depending on how many batteries are pumped out in any given year.

Ottawa has said the government’s investment in the plant — Canada’s largest-ever taxpayer investment in an industrial facility of this type — was necessary to stop the plant from going to the U.S., where there are also generous subsidies on offer.

After praising the politicians and workers who secured the deal, Trudeau launched into a pointed partisan attack on Poilievre.

“Pierre Poilievre came out and said this project was a waste of money,” Trudeau said at Friday’s announcement.

Looking directly at local Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, who was in attendance for the announcement, Trudeau said, “Karen, you have your work cut out for you.”

He framed the Volkswagen deal as a bet on a cleaner, greener future by a “confident country.”

Poilievre’s anti-carbon tax rhetoric threatens to derail projects like this, Trudeau said.

“Do we want to see all the anxieties we have and all the challenges around the world and say, ‘This is an opportunity for Canada to step up,’ or do we want to say ‘Canada is broken, we’re never going to succeed, let’s get really mad instead,'” Trudeau said, citing Poilievre’s claim that “Canada is broken” after eight years of Liberal leadership.

“Anger doesn’t deliver this plant in St. Thomas.”

 

Trudeau takes aim at Poilievre during Volkswagen welcoming event

 

During a speech welcoming what will be a massive Volkswagen battery plant in St. Thomas, Ont., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that while Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said ‘this project was a waste of money … confident countries invest in their workers.’

Poilievre has expressed scepticism about the government’s investment.

When the project was announced initially earlier this year, Poilievre questioned “how much of Canadians’ money” would be going to a “foreign corporation.”

“This money belongs to Canadians. Not to a foreign corporation. Not to Justin Trudeau,” he said.

Poilievre also wrote to Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux on Friday calling on him to take a closer look at the deal.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks during an announcement and news conference, in New Westminster, B.C., on Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has asked the PBO to evaluate the federal government’s investment in the Volkswagen plant. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

In his letter to Giroux, he said the $13 billion in subsidies will have to come from taxpayers and he would like to better understand the impact.

“We believe it would be beneficial to calculate the expected impact on jobs in other sectors due to the fiscal measures needed to provide the necessary funds to subsidize these jobs,” Poilievre wrote.

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who has been credited with closing the deal with Volkswagen, said the country will recoup its investment in only five years’ time.

“Five — that’s the number that matters to Canadians. The number of years for the economic impact to equal the value of our investment,” Champagne said.

“Yes, this investment is a big one but it is an anchor in the supply chains we’re building,” Trudeau added. “We’re expecting the economic impact of the investment to be covered within five years.”

Polievre asked Giroux to fact-check the government’s claims.

“We would ask your office to provide an independent analysis of how long it would be expected to take for taxpayers to see their subsidy returned through increased government revenue from the economic impact resulting from the facility’s construction,” he said.

The federal government has landed other big EV deals as it looks to rebuild a sector that has been hollowed out by disinvestment and globalization.

Stellantis, the parent company of brands like Chrysler, Jeep and Ram, has said it will spend  $4.9 billion to build a new electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in Windsor.

It’s also booked $3.6 billion to retool its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants for fully electric vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. has promised to spend $1.8 billion on its Oakville Assembly Complex to turn it into an electric vehicle production hub.

General Motors has also spent tens of millions of dollars — with some financial support from Ottawa and Ontario —  to convert its Ingersoll, Ont., plant into an assembly line for electric delivery vans.

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More evacuation orders in B.C. as heat wave aids lightning-triggered wildfires

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Several lightning-triggered wildfires have forced authorities in British Columbia to issue evacuation orders as the province’s southern and eastern regions swelter in a heat wave.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Island Pond fire about 17 kilometres south of Canal Flats, B.C., in the East Kootenay, was discovered Saturday and grew to 1.2 square kilometres overnight.

The Regional District of East Kootenay has declared a state of local emergency and issued an evacuation order for two addresses as a result, and has also warned another 65 properties to be prepared to leave on short notice.

Meanwhile, the Cariboo Regional District ordered residents on 29 parcels of land in the Kuyakuz Lake area covering 923 square kilometres to evacuate immediately, with five out-of-control wildfires burning nearby — four of which were confirmed to be lightning-caused.

The new evacuation orders come as the Shetland Creek fire about eight kilometres north of Spences Bridge, B.C., is holding at about 150 square kilometres in size.

The BC Wildfire Service dashboard says about 87 per cent of the more than 300 blazes burning in the province have been caused by lightning.

All evacuation orders and alerts linked to the Shetland Creek blaze in B.C.’s Thompson-Nicola region remain in place for communities such as Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Spences Bridge and the Ashcroft First Nation.

In the Central Kootenay, the community of Silverton, B.C., is on alert while 107 properties south of the village are under an evacuation order due to the nearby Aylwin Creek wildfire.

Aylwin Creek and nearby Komonko Creek remain at a combined size of 6.5 square kilometres, and Highway 6 south of Silverton remains closed due to wildfires burning nearby.

Environment Canada says the latest heat wave broke or matched the daily high-temperature records in 14 B.C. communities on Saturday, with Lytton reaching a high of 41.2 degrees — breaking a record of 40.6 degrees set in 1946.

Temperature records also fell in the B.C. communities of Cranbrook, Merritt, Princeton, Trail and Vernon, with all five communities reaching at least 36 degrees.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Why Ontario Premier Doug Ford is at war with the LCBO – BBC.com

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Why Ontario Premier Doug Ford is at war with the LCBO  BBC.com

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U.S. President Joe Biden steps aside as Democratic candidate, ending re-election bid

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WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden is removing his name as the Democratic candidate in the November election following weeks of mounting pressure over the 81-year-old’s mental acuity and ability to win the faceoff with Republican rival Donald Trump.

Biden says it has been his greatest honour to serve but he believes it is in the best interest of his party to stand down and focus solely on fulfilling his duties as president for the rest of his term.

Growing numbers of Democrats were urging Biden to drop out following a disastrous debate performance against Trump and multiple missteps on the world stage during the recent NATO leaders’ summit in Washington.

Biden told supporters Friday he was ready to get back on the road this week after recovering from COVID-19, which he contracted during a critical time for his campaign.

Biden criticized Trump’s acceptance speech at last week’s Republican National Convention, saying it presented a dark vision for the future, and indicated he would forge ahead with his own campaign.

But he issued a social media post on Sunday afternoon saying he would not be running, adding he will speak to the nation and provide more detail later this week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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