Madam Speaker, I am truly glad to rise today to speak to this very sad situation. Talking about cars is a joy, but it is unspeakably sad to learn, as we did today, that 3,000 Ontario workers will be losing their jobs. It is appalling.
I said it is a joy because cars are one of humanity's guilty pleasures. I am 55 years old; I was born in 1963. When I was younger, I dreamed of owning a Duster with big tires and side pipes. That was my dream for years. I have been driving a Prius for the past 17 years, and it may not be terribly exciting, but it is the right thing to do. The problem with the Prius is that it is imported, so it does not really support Canadian industry. The Oshawa plant that will be closing its doors has been open since 1930, if memory serves. People have been making cars in that part of the country for a long time.
Which vehicles are made there today? They make the Chevrolet Impala, a small police car. I have had one as a rental car on occasion, and it is pretty nice to drive. Surprisingly, it is relatively good on gas. When the speedometer was showing 110 or 115 kilometres an hour—yes, I drive 15 kilometres over the speed limit—the car used 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres, if I remember correctly. That is pretty good, but that is not the current market trend, as my Conservative colleague said. People want big cars and SUVs. It is too bad, since we need to think about the environment right now, but that is the market trend.
The GM plant manufactures the Impala, the Cadillac XTS and the Equinox. Anyone, including the Prime Minister, can see that those models are on their last legs. Those old models are not very trendy. The Chevrolet Equinox probably still sells well, but it is definitely not the car of the future. Everybody knows that everything is built on platforms. I do not know the name of the platform used to manufacture the Impala and the Cadillac XTS, but it is a platform that has reached the end of its life cycle.
My colleague from Durham talked about the Chevrolet Volt. That car was manufactured in a plant in the United States that also shut down. I do not think that the closure of the American plant is an indication that hybrid vehicles have no future. The reality is that the Chevrolet Volt is built on the Chevrolet Cruze platform. The Chevrolet Volt is a hybrid of the Chevrolet Cruze. It is not the plug-in hybrid technology that is being abandoned, but the look of the Volt. Anyone who knows a little about cars will notice the similarities between the two, particularly with regard to the way the cabin is built. Only the look of the Volt is changing. The car will eventually be back in a different form. Obviously, that is what is intended because it was a great commercial success.
When I bought my first Prius in 2001, everyone laughed at me, even Jacques Duval. Today, he is a great supporter of the Tesla, but at the time, he said that these cars were ridiculous and that they were not going anywhere. Toyota gambled on hybrid vehicles and won. That is why we are proud to know that some Toyota hybrids are built here in Canada. Hybrid cars popularized the idea of driving a vehicle powered by something other than a combustion engine.
The Chevrolet Volt is a commercial success. Quebeckers love that car. The Chevrolet dealership in Rawdon is the top dealership in North America. It is no doubt the General Motors dealership that sells the most cars like the Volt, the Sonic, or perhaps the Sprint, and the Bolt, both by volume and per capita. It gets the lion's share. Many Ontarians buy from that dealership because Quebec offers a lot of incentives for purchasing an electric vehicle. The Volt is a major seller, and I find that reassuring. In my opinion, that model will come back on another platform.
Canada's auto manufacturers always end up with the short end of the stick. Having spoken to workers' groups and representatives of Canadian manufacturers, I can see that companies are fond of describing themselves as international players. They do not want to say that their made-in-Canada cars are better than the others. They do not want to get into regionalization. As members can imagine, this would not be beneficial for them. At the very least, they do not see it as a positive.
We have to do this, at least as much as our trade agreements allow us to. We should be proud of what is manufactured here. We should be promoting the vehicles manufactured by our workers.
Earlier I said that a long time ago, in 2003, Jack Layton pushed for a plan, a vision, to renew Canada's automotive sector.
I understand that Canadian auto workers look down on Japanese vehicles or other vehicles that come from elsewhere. Unfortunately, up until now, the electric vehicle movement was essentially limited to imports.
Our relationship with the auto industry in general is not one of equals. It is the epitome of cynicism. If I look at the notes we had on GM, it would seem that bailing out companies is inevitable. Two days later, the boss gives himself a bonus before closing up shop. In this case, the government gave GM a $14-billion tax break just last week.
In the meantime, we cannot be so self-centred as to ignore reality. GM is facing challenges. According to the numbers I saw and the consultations I have held, the company is very profitable. It is in the process of downsizing. We see it quite often. These companies are posting profits, but in this case it was not enough, because 2,500 jobs are being cut in Oshawa. It is cynical. It is even more so when we consider that it was just given a lovely $14-billion gift. The company got financial assistance when it needed it, and now it is closing its doors.
That said, what I want to focus on is the pride we should take in what we make. In Canada, we manufacture vehicles that may seem a bit outdated, a bit last-generation. However, not many people know that we also make cars like the Toyota Corolla, a top seller with broad appeal. Normally, the plant should not have to close. Of course, the Cruze is a whole different story, because the platform needs to change.
In Canada, we manufacture the Toyota Corolla, the Toyota RAV4, the Lexus RX 350 and the Lexus RX 450H, which is the hybrid model. We also manufacture the RAV4 hybrid. Not many people know that.
Once the car is in the dealer showroom, is there anything preventing us from saying that the car was built in Canada or that it is a modern, environmentally friendly car? I would think that would be a plus, yet nothing is ever said about that.
The last time I went to California, I drove through strawberry country and saw signs saying “America's best strawberries”. Americans are always tooting their own horn. In Canada, we never brag about what we do. I think that is a bit of a shame.
Toyota manufactures its cars here because we have good workers who do an excellent job of assembling cars and who know how to do it. They know very well that they are going to sell those cars to their neighbours, and they want them to be made right. We can be proud of our workers. Unfortunately, I do not know why we are so embarrassed about this.
I want to point out that there are a lot of RAV4 hybrids in the government's fleet. This is a good thing, and I am proud of it.
In addition to those three GM vehicles, we also make the Ford Flex, which, I must admit, will soon be discontinued. This model was quite unique, but it is clearly not a car of the future. The Ford Edge and its equivalent at Lincoln, the MKT, are interesting vehicles, but as far as I know, they will soon be discontinued. We have been making these cars for quite a while, so this is a bit worrisome.
As a politician in Ottawa, I do not find it reassuring to know that we make the Ford Flex, the Lincoln MKT and the Ford Edge. These are old models. We also make the Ford GT, an extremely prestigious car with a short run, but I still think it is worth pointing out that skilled Canadians hands manufactured such a prestigious vehicle.
Before I talk about Chrysler, I need to talk about Honda, which manufactures the popular Civic. Something tells me that this model is not going anywhere. I would be shocked if there were problems at that plant. We also manufacture the Honda CR-V, a much larger, but extremely popular, model. I have no concerns about this plant either, although I cannot say the same about Ford's.
Next, I wanted to talk about Chrysler, for I am not at all reassured, given that in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, the price of a bungalow keeps going up, not to mention all the rumours going around. I am pretty sure that neither management nor the union would disagree with me on this: the Brampton plant just completely renovated its paint facility. I think tens of million of dollars were invested in it.
That is where the Chrysler 300, the Challenger and the infamous and aptly named Demon are manufactured. I think the Demon has 700 horsepower under the hood, which is about the same as eight Honda Civic engines. It is a beast. These are limited editions, and they can be very exciting and quite beautiful. However, they are relics of transportation prehistory on our planet, since they are powered by engines that produce an appalling level of pollution.
The Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300 are three very nice cars that many young men might find exciting, but honestly, we have to admit that their future does not look bright.
Now we come to the model that interests me the most. Yes, I am interested in the Dodge Caravan, but I especially like the Chrysler Pacifica. My colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands mentioned the movie Who Killed the Electric Car. I went to the Windsor and Detroit area and had the chance to see the sites that are interesting to people who are into cars.
First, I saw the first versions of the Pacifica, which is delivered with a rechargeable hybrid engine. It is a regular car for a regular family. I agree that it could be less expensive, and could be better supported, but it is equipped with a rechargeable hybrid system.
That means it is not unreasonable to think that a family living in a Toronto suburb with a Pacifica Hybrid could leave their house, drop off the children at day care and school, go to work, park the car, not plug in, all without using a drop of gas. Then when they go to visit grandma in Muskoka, the engine will start. At the end of the day, the family will fill up the gas tank once every two months. That is not bad as far as I am concerned. It is progress.
Has anyone really ever heard of this vehicle, though? It would appear that even the government has never heard of it, because I have been keeping an eye on it for two years now. There were two vehicles here in front of Parliament for the Canada 150 celebrations. This year, another official vehicle was used for the Canada Day celebrations and it ran on gas. What a bad idea.
There was no shortage of tourists that could have been shown those vehicles and who would have thought to themselves, “It's probably built in Windsor and it's all electric”. People can tell when a car is electric because they do not hear it pull up. It runs clean without exhaust emissions. We will not talk about it though. It is far too great of a Canadian success to actually talk about.
I visit Windsor to see that plant and that truck. People who like cars and who visit Windsor also go across the way to Detroit, Motor City, while they are there. Detroit is home to the headquarters of GM and the big towers that are right across from Windsor. Detroit is also home to the famous plant where the Ford F-150 is built.
I was therefore pleased to learn, even though this still surprises me, that the Ford F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in North America. It outsells the Honda Civic and other brands of pickup trucks.
There is a reason for that, however. A lot of people need a pickup truck, and that is fine. I have a few doubts about my neighbour in Longueuil who has a really big pickup and, as far as I know, does not have to tow a trailer full of tools, a fifth-wheel trailer, or anything like that. Does he really need a truck like that to go to Jean Coutu? I have my doubts. It seems to me that it may not be a very good choice, but overall it is top selling vehicle.
I was delighted to see it at the plant and to see a plant like that one. I have not visited plants in Canada, but I can say that the Ford F-150 plant in Rouge River is a marvel of automation. The employees there work in a lab-like setting with gloves and little mitts. It is a model factory very much inspired by the man who invented the assembly line, Mr. Ford himself. I visited that place, and I was overjoyed to see that the gas tank is made in my riding, in Boucherville, by Spectra Premium Industries.
Obviously, this will have a huge impact on jobs and the economy. Anyway, I took a little detour to go see the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. While there, I saw GM's famous EV1, the electric car that debuted in the 1990s through Saturn. That model was destroyed, put out of commission by the oil industry. That was such a shame, and I have never really forgiven GM for making something so wonderful and then selling out to the oil lobby.
Today, in 2018, the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid is a vehicle that is well suited to the needs of Canadian families. Unfortunately, there is no sense of pride, no Canada-wide incentives, for this vehicle. We also do not have a vision for what we could do to improve Canada's automotive sector.
Unfortunately, the dealers that have these cars do not promote them. They do not want to sell them and would rather sell the regular Caravan minivan, which carries a profit margin of $1,200. The Pacifica does not have such incentives, and the margin is just $200 or $300. They would rather not convince a customer to buy a $50,000 van to earn just $300.
What this means is that I am worried for the Pacifica Hybrid, a vehicle than can be plugged in and that is manufactured in Windsor. This is the most futuristic vehicle ever manufactured in Canada, and I think that if we do not do something, we will lose it. We need to wake up, have some vision and be proud.