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VW CEO says EV battery plant planned for Ontario could become one of the world’s largest



A massive new electric vehicle battery plant in St. Thomas, Ont., is being hailed as a “game changer” for Canada’s auto sector and broader economy, as countries fight to secure investment in clean technologies.

Details of the multibillion-dollar project were announced on Friday at an official welcoming for German automaker Volkswagen to Canada to build what they say could be the largest EV battery plant in the world.

The plant in the southwestern Ontario city is expected to employ up to 3,000 people and create thousands of spinoff jobs. Volkswagen is investing $7 billion to build the plant, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The plant will be VW’s largest in North America and has the potential to be the largest VW plant in the world, said Frank Blome, the CEO of PowerCo, the Volkswagen subsidiary that makes batteries for electric vehicles.


“St. Thomas was the capital for trains and Volkswagen is the capital for automotive, so we fit well together,” Blome said on Friday. “Congratulations on outperforming the competition and bringing this factory to St. Thomas.”

The plant will have six production lines and make enough batteries for one million cars every year. VW has plans to make 25 new electric vehicle models in the coming decades, and most of their batteries will come from St. Thomas, Blome said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau credited Canadian workers for the largest auto deal in the country’s history and one of the largest industrial parks in all of North America.

Premier Doug Ford speaking at the unveiling of plans for an EV battery plan.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says politics took a back seat in order for federal and provincial officials to land the investment from Volkswagen. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

“This deal is about workers. It will be worth $200 billion to the Canadian economy over the coming decade,” Trudeau said. He acknowledged that Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has come out against the deal, saying the $13 billion in federal subsidies is too much.

“Cleaner environment, a stronger, healthier happier workforce, partnerships with Indigenous peoples, that is how we build a strong economy of the future,” Trudeau said. “Mr Poilievre has said this is a waste of money…. Canada is about building a stronger future for the middle class and their children.”

Trudeau says the project will create up to 30,000 indirect or spinoff jobs.

The federal government agreed to give Volkswagen up to $13 billion in subsidies over the next decade, part of a deal to lure the company to build its first North American electric vehicle battery plant in southern Ontario.

“This is the largest auto investment in the province’s history. It’s a complete turnaround of the auto sector in three years. We’re back. Ontario is back,” said Vic Fedeli, the province’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade.

‘This is the future of our community’

Local business leaders also welcomed the investment. “This plant will dramatically shift the direction of where this community is going,” said Sean Dyke, CEO of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation.

“This is the future of our community.”

On top of the billions from Ottawa, Ontario will pay $500 million in “direct incentives” to VW. The province will also invest new funds in St. Thomas and surrounding communities.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford praised the deal and said it was important to put political differences aside to bring investment to the province.

The bumper of a VW car with a license plate that reads St. Thomas Proud at an EV plant unveiling on April 23, 2023.
A licence plate on a yellow VW reads, ‘St. Thomas Proud,’ at the unveiling of plans to build an EV battery plant in the southwestern Ontario city. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

“The cars of the future will be made here in Ontario from start to finish, from the minerals in northern Ontario to the batteries here in St. Thomas, and they’ll be made by Ontario workers,” Ford said.

“We are revitalizing Ontario’s auto sector and making Ontario the auto powerhouse of North America.”

The announcement took place at the Elgin County Railway Museum, with vintage train cars looming over the politicians and executives.

Outside, striking Public Service Alliance of Canada members could be heard chanting as Trudeau praised the workers who will work in the plant.

“Canada has the advantage because of the workers themselves, people who know how to deliver exactly what the world wants,” the prime minister said.


VW deal a ‘game changer’ for Canada: Champagne


Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne says the $13-billion deal with the automaker is going to bring more jobs to St. Thomas, Ont., and represents a ‘generational opportunity.’

“This is more than a gigafactory. It’s an understanding that the future is going to be strong and bring for the people here and the people across the country.”

The plan is for the federal government to provide annual production subsidies to the German automaker and kick in funds for the massive factory in St. Thomas, which is estimated to be the size of 391 football fields, making it the largest factory in Canada.

‘We need to attract industry’

Billions in taxpayer dollars for a profitable automaker like Volkswagen doesn’t make sense at first glance, said one international business expert.

But it does once you consider that Canada is up against the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act, which offers billions in subsidies to companies to build south of the border, said Andreas Schotter, a professor of international strategy at the Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ont., and a former marketing sales controller for North America at Volkswagen.


Volkswagen to build EV battery plant in Ontario


Volkswagen has announced it’s building a major electric vehicle battery factory in St. Thomas, Ont. Slated to open in 2027, the factory is the first of its kind in Canada.

“That Inflation Reduction Act has really pushed up the need to open the pockets wider for attracting investments in green technology and battery plants. Otherwise, the plant would have been put in the United States or Mexico, but likely the U.S.,” he said.

“We need to attract industry,” Schotter said.

“Volkswagen is a global player. Attracting this plant here, from a Canadian perspective, makes sense. Price tag? You pay the price and you get them.”


Afternoon Drive6:12Agricultural Cost of a Volkswagen EV Plant

As the saying goes, once agricultural land is lost….it’s gone forever. This week we learned about 1,500 acres of land in St. Thomas, is slotted for industrial investment. Afternoon Drive Host Allison Devereaux spoke to Crispin Colvin, a Vice President from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

Bloomberg News first reported the federal subsidy amount. Sources with knowledge of the deal have confirmed the details of the contract with CBC News.

According to details of the deal, federal production support for the plant is expected to range from $8 billion to $13 billion over 10 years. Ottawa is also offering about $700 million in capital expense grants to Volkswagen through its Strategic Innovation Fund.

“This is a game changer for our nation,” Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said, while fielding questions from reporters on Thursday.



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More Canadian companies adopt ‘stay interviews’ amid push to retain staff



When Tara Vanderloo’s employees are mulling leaving her enterprise software company, she wants to be one of the first people they tell – and to hear their unvarnished reasons why.

“I know people get called by recruiters, so I’ve asked the question: ‘who are you talking to or what type of organizations?”’ said the chief experience officer at Sensei Labs in Toronto.

“Have you had any thoughts or are you questioning why you want to be here?”


Vanderloo poses the questions in one-on-one meetings she and other staff periodically have with the company’s workforce of roughly 70.

The discussions, which some companies call “stay interviews,” are designed to collect feedback from employees and are aimed at learning what the company can do to retain valued team members and keep them happy.

Some companies have been hosting such meetings for years, but many more adopted the practice over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as the health crisis caused workers to rethink their careers or seek more flexibility, advancement or support from their employers.

Sensei Labs adopted engagement interviews in late 2021, when companies saw millions of people worldwide leave their jobs in what economists and businesses branded “The Great Resignation.”

“It was substantial, and it was concerning for us because it’s hard to hire great people and we don’t want to lose them, so the first thing we did is we addressed it head on,” recalled Vanderloo.

A companywide meeting was called to discuss the labour market changes afoot, and team leads _ Sensei Labs doesn’t use the term managers _ followed up one-on-one to learn about employee happiness in more detail.

Despite a softening job market and suggestions that negotiating power has tipped back in favour of employers, Sensei Labs has kept up with the practice and a quarterly happiness survey.

The survey asks workers whether the company lives up to its values and “would you recommend Sensei as a place of employment to others?”

Sensei Labs has a near perfect score for people who would recommend it, but staff still have wants, particularly around flexibility.

That’s part of why Sensei Labs has eschewed formal return-to-office requirements. The company has space staff can use but no rules on how often staff must use it for work.

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It also piloted a four-day work week that has been expanded because the happiness survey and chats with staff have shown it’s a hit.

“Their language was like, ‘this has changed my life,”’ said Vanderloo. “If you have kids, it just makes things easier to get all your chores done or doctors’ appointments or focus on your hobbies or whatever you want to do.”

Sensei won’t green light every ask, Vanderloo cautioned.

“It’s not like the sky is the limit,” she said.

“If it’s not something we can implement, we’re very open about it.”

Chief people and culture officer Michelle Brooks has done “engagement interviews” twice with the 200 staff at Toronto cybersecurity firm Security Compass.

They started the interviews a few years ago because they wanted to build on data they were already collecting by measuring engagement, which they thought would help indicate whether people intend to stick around.

The goal isn’t to prevent everyone from leaving but to ensure the company couldn’t have done something simple to prevent the departure of high performers.

“Some level of turnover is healthy,” said Brooks. “We only want them to stay as long as they want to be here and they’ve having their needs met just like in a relationship… We don’t want to lock people in.”

The interviews Brooks has done so far have yielded valuable insights. For example, she learned that some workers aren’t necessarily seeking a promotion. They just want more responsibilities, opportunities to learn and even the ability to go to a conference.

Jenna Hammond, an Ontario woman working for a Norwegian biotech company, used a stay interview, which her company calls a “touchpoint,” to ask for a better employment arrangement.

Hammond was hired as a sole proprietor on a six-month contract with no benefits. She took the job because it was a way back to working after 15 years raising kids.

“I really needed financial stability and financial independence and being on contract just wasn’t ideal,” she said.

When the chief executive of the company asked her what it would take to get her to stay in a touchpoint, she told him and ended up being made a full-time employee with benefits.

Her company repeats these meetings every quarter and does a more fulsome one each January that can last up to 3.5 hours.

In her last meeting, Hammond asked the company to cover cleaning services for her home, which she said would help with work-life balance. They declined but offered her Fridays off this summer to help her juggle responsibilities.

“The worst thing that they were going to say to me was no, but I found that if I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t receive,” she said.

Jennifer Hargreaves, who runs Tellent, an organization that helps women find flexible work opportunities, believes every company should be having open conversations to hear about employee needs on a regular basis, but warned the process can also be a “double-edged sword” for staff.

“The huge benefit to doing it is obviously you can get what you want” she said.

“But there’s this fear that if I ask them and they say no, they’re going to know I’m unhappy, so then I might get punished for it right down the road.”

She encourages employees asked to complete such interviews to step back and think about they want and what is most important to them before coming up with an ask that is focused, specific and realistic.

But even more important to the process, she said, is employers willing to be transparent with staff and make changes based on what they hear.

“Candidates and employees are getting really tired of a lot of talk with no action,” she said.

“People need to see things backed up. If not, they know how much opportunity is out there.”



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Latvians got a surprise day off today. Here’s why



Latvians woke up to go to work on Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to.

Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best-ever result at the world championship.

Latvia, where hockey is the national sport, was co-hosting the men’s championship with Finland, and the Latvians’ extra-time victory over the U.S. for third place was greeted with wild jubilation. Canada won gold in the tournament and Germany silver.

An airBaltic plane bringing the team home from Finland made a low-altitude fly-past over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans gathered to welcome the squad.


At quarter to midnight on Sunday, sporting red and white national team jerseys, members of parliament convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.

It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.

The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colours of the national flag. Another giggled merrily while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall.

There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.

But as dawn broke after the midnight sitting, there was confusion about who was working and who was not.

Court hearings were cancelled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates.

Businesses found themselves in some disarray, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Aigars Rostovskis, told public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”

Several hospitals chose to stay open to honour doctor’s appointments.



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String of motorcycle deaths in B.C. spurs calls for improved road repairs, safety standards –



Alexis Wiltse’s brother never worried about his sister when she was out on one of her Harley-Davidson motorcycles — he worried about the roads.

Luciano Carnovale says his vibrant, loving sister was a cautious and capable motorcycle driver who took her safety seriously.

“The road conditions, that was my biggest concern always with her,” said Carnovale, a nurse in Kamloops. “Even for me, driving around in my pickup truck gets very bumpy and sketchy as it is.”


Wiltse’s family and motorcyclists are urging caution and calling for better road maintenance after the 38-year-old social worker and two other British Columbia motorcyclists died within three weeks of one another earlier this spring.

On May 6, Wiltse was riding on Shuswap Road near Miner Road on the Tk’emlups reserve, according to RCMP, when her bike hit a “beast of” a pothole. She died of her injuries, while another motorcyclist was hospitalized.

Carnovale says poor conditions on Shuswap Road were well-known by government before Wiltse died. The pothole has been filled since the accident, but road conditions on either side are still poor, he added.

“It’s been a constant nightmare throughout the years and just unmaintained,” said Carnovale. “But it shouldn’t be like that in this day and age.”

A large pothole in a sunny road with moutains and grass nearby.
The pothole on Shuswap Road that Alexis Wiltse’s family says caused her death has been filled since her crash on May 6, 2023. But her family says road conditions remain poor. (Facebook)

The unusually hot weather already this spring has brought an early start to the motorcycle season and its hazards, say ICBC and RCMP.

At least eight motorcyclists have died so far this year, compared to six this time in 2021.

On April 24 of this year, a 27-year-old motorcyclist died after colliding with a tractor trailer in Burnaby, and another in Surrey was killed in a crash with a minivan on May 8.

Surrey has seen six motorcycle fatalities in the last six weeks alone, according to ICBC.

“It’s May, the sun is out, we’ve got a lot more riders on the road, and we really want drivers to be looking twice for motorcycles,” said Karen Klein, ICBC road safety coordinator for Surrey.

“You cannot see motorcycles unless you’re actually looking for them.”

Recent collisions prompted Surrey RCMP and ICBC to team up to offer a free skills course and refresher for motorcyclists on Sunday.

Motorcycles account for about four per cent of ICBC-insured vehicles, but make up about 14 per cent of crash claims, Klein said.

Each year, there are about 2,200 crashes resulting in around 1,500 injuries and 40 deaths, she added.

Klein advised riders to always wear proper protective gear and practice the basics, urging drivers to lookout for motorcycles at every turn.

A woman walking across a gold course smiling.
Wiltse was hard-working and loved her family more than anything, her brother Luciano Carnovale told CBC News. (Facebook)

Death was preventable: brother

Alex Johnson has been a motorcyclist near Kamloops for three years. She says when news of Wiltse’s death broke, her friend called to make sure it hadn’t been her on the bike.

“It’s sad because she was so young and she had a beautiful bike and it’s just sad to see lives lost so young,” said Johnson, 55.

She said the conditions on smaller roads like Shuswap can be brutal, particularly earlier in the season. It’s why she avoids them until later in the season.

“The gravel from the snow spread has not been cleared throughout the winter. Potholes have been created,” said Johnson, who lives in Tappen, about 95 kilometres east of Kamloops. 

“You just have to be very aware of that. People aren’t really out fixing roads, you’re taking your life in your own hands.”

Johnson urged other riders to take their time easing back into the season to warm up even the basic skills they probably haven’t used since last year.

She’s also calling for better road maintenance and higher safety standards for motorcyclists before they get their licenses.

Carnovale says sister’s “senseless” death hurts much more because it could have been prevented.

It shouldn’t “be a life or death scenario depending on which road you turn on,” said Carnovale.

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