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Jerome Berthelette
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Jerome Berthelette
2015-03-30 15:35
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank the committee for giving us this opportunity to discuss chapter 5 of our report, entitled “Support to the Automotive Sector”. It is in our 2014 Fall Report. Joining me at the table is Richard Domingue, Principal, who was responsible for the audit.
The global economic recession of 2008 negatively affected Canada's production and employment in the automotive industry. Vehicle sales declined sharply in the United States and Canada, and some companies, including Chrysler and General Motors, could not generate sufficient income to fund their operations.
In December 2008, the governments of Canada and Ontario joined the U.S. government and offered financial assistance to Chrysler Canada and GM Canada. In total, the federal government provided $9 billion of financial assistance to support the restructuring of Chrysler and GM, including their Canadian subsidiaries.
We looked at how Industry Canada, the Department of Finance Canada, and Export Development Canada managed this financial assistance. The assistance involved complex transactions, high uncertainty, and tight timeframes. These circumstances had an impact on what Industry Canada could do to manage the assistance.
We found that Industry Canada, the Department of Finance Canada, and Export Development Canada managed the financial support to the automotive sector in a way that contributed to the viability of the companies and the competitiveness of the sector in Canada over the short and medium terms.
Industry Canada adequately assessed the recovery prospects of Chrysler and GM. This helped the government decide whether to participate in the financing of the companies' restructuring. However, Industry Canada had limited information on required concessions from unionized labour and other stakeholders, and on GM Canada's pension liabilities. This lack of information made it difficult for the department to understand the impact of its assistance on the long-term viability of the companies.
Industry Canada's information on the use of funds was limited to broad categories. For example, Industry Canada had limited documentation on the actual use of a $2.8-billion loan made to GM Canada for capital expenditures, warranty claims, and other general corporate purposes. However, the department adequately monitored the companies' production commitments in Canada.
Mr. Chair, we also found that there was no comprehensive reporting to Parliament of information about the restructuring assistance. Based on the information publicly available, we found it impossible to gain a complete picture of the assistance provided and of the amounts recovered and lost.
In 2008, the federal government launched the automotive innovation fund program. The program's objective is to support automotive firms in their strategic, large-scale research and development projects to produce innovative, greener, and more fuel-efficient vehicles. In addition, the government expects the program to contribute to a more competitive Canadian automotive sector.
We looked at how Industry Canada managed this program. Overall we found that Industry Canada's assessment of each project proposal was consistent with the program's terms and conditions, but in our opinion its risk assessment framework was more comprehensive than required. The department could streamline its risk analysis, given that recipients assume all of the technical risks and most of the financial risks of their projects.
Industry Canada has adequate information coming from progress reports and site visits to allow the progress of each project to be tracked.
However, Industry Canada has not yet used this information to determine whether the program is achieving its objectives.
Industry Canada has agreed with our recommendations and set deadlines for their implementation. Last December the department met one of its deadlines by issuing a report entitled “Summary Report on Canada's Support for the Restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009”.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.
Thank you.
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Philip Jennings
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Philip Jennings
2015-03-30 15:42
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With that, thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for allowing me to provide you with a brief overview of Industry Canada's response to the Auditor General's 2014 fall report on the restructuring assistance provided to General Motors and Chrysler during the economic crisis of 2009 as well as the automotive innovation fund.
As you are aware, Canada has a strong automotive sector, which generates $17 billion annually of value-added, or 10% of Canada's manufacturing GDP. With some 730 automotive suppliers supporting our 11 assembly lines and three engine plants, the industry employs some 117,000 Canadians directly, and another 377,000 Canadians indirectly. In fact, in 2014, Ontario was the largest automotive manufacturing jurisdiction in North America—larger even than Michigan.
The auto sector is also export orientated. There are 90% of Canadian-made vehicles sold abroad, the vast majority of these in the United States. The proximity to the U.S., one of the most profitable auto markets, is one of our competitive strengths. Our auto sector is truly part of an integrated North American market.
Industry Canada is always interested in views and ideas that will help us support and grow Canada's automotive sector. While we hope we will never face a situation like the crisis of 2009 again, we are also interested in learning from such circumstances and in continuously improving how we prepare and respond. In this light, we welcomed the Auditor General's four recommendations. In fact, Industry Canada has already acted upon two of them and plans to act on the other two recommendations in a timely fashion. I will discuss this later in my remarks.
As you know, Mr. Chair, late 2008 and early 2009 was a period of extreme uncertainty and volatility. Credit was tightening, consumers were scaling down and postponing their spending, and economies around the globe appeared to be heading into recession, if they weren't already. The auto sector was experiencing first-hand the impacts of consumers postponing major expenditures. Annual vehicle sales plummeted in the U.S. in 2009, from about 17 million vehicles per year to a little over 10 million.
With shrinking sales, the financial situation of all companies was becoming desperate, but for GM and Chrysler it was particularly bad, as it did not have access to capital like the others. In November 2008, GM announced it would run out of cash around mid-2009 without a combination of government funding, a merger, or sales of assets. No credit institution was in a position to help either GM or Chrysler.
While Canadian sales did not dip as much, Canadian assemblers were not sheltered by the events in the U.S., given that close to 90% of Canadian-made cars are exported to that country. Canadian subsidiaries were directly impacted by their parent companies' difficulties. There was a real risk that GM and Chrysler might shutter their Canadian operations in an attempt to restructure.
GM and Chrysler were at the time, and continue to be, the two largest carmakers in Canada, accounting for more than 55% of total production. Many of Canada's suppliers depended on contracts with GM and Chrysler. Without this work, many would not have survived, leading to a hollowing out of the suppliers and creating problems for the other original automotive equipment manufacturers.
That would have triggered a collapse of the entire Canadian automotive supply chain. The strong links and interdependencies between our supply chain and our assemblers were the key motivation for government action and support of GM and Chrysler. GM and Chrysler in Canada had to be protected from being collateral damage of the events in the U.S., not only for their sake but for the entire suppliers sector and ultimately the entire automotive industry in Canada.
Mr. Chair, as the Auditor General concluded, the Government of Canada did what it set out to do: prevent the disorderly collapse of the auto sector and ensure a viable automotive sector in Canada.
The clock was ticking. There was a very short timeframe to find a viable remedy for both GM and Chrysler. Both were in dire financial straits, and Chrysler needed to find a buyer. From the point that the crisis started and GM submitted high-level restructuring plans to the U.S. Congress in late 2008, governments had less than a month to decide whether to provide an initial set of loans. Again, once the company submitted more detailed plans, there was only about six weeks to assess their long-term viability.
As these events demonstrate, the restructuring of GM and Chrysler took place under intensely challenging circumstances. It required unprecedented collective action by the federal, Ontario, and U.S. governments.
While Charles and I at Industry Canada were not there at the time of the restructuring, the federal government did quickly organize an automotive response team. It was headed by Mr. Richard Dicerni and Mr. Paul Boothe, the deputy minister and associate deputy minister at Industry Canada at the time, and Mr. Ron Parker and Mr. David Moloney, who are my predecessors and who led a team of dedicated public servants who worked tirelessly and in unique ways to manage the government's response to the crisis. It supported a steering committee made up of deputy ministers from Industry Canada and Finance, as well as representatives from Export Development Canada, the Privy Council Office, and the Ontario Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, who all played important roles.
The team also reached out to stakeholders and experts to ensure it quickly had access to the necessary knowledge and expertise, whether on financial corporate restructuring from KPMG and Ernst and Young or on U.S. and Canadian insolvency law from Cassels Brock or on the automotive market from CSM Worldwide and Casesa Shapiro Group.
There were external discussions with those in the industry, including assemblers and suppliers, to gather essential information needed to assess and understand the risk. The government then made a responsible decision and took decisive action. Afterwards, my department monitored the two companies to ensure they fulfilled their end of the bargain and to ensure that the restructuring would deliver the desired results.
Mr. Chair, I am impressed by the work accomplished by my predecessors for the Canadian industry and its workers. Their work was the basis of the government actions and it paid off. It also proved to be pivotal in securing the immediate future of Canada's automotive industry and the economy at large. In early 2009, GM and Chrysler assembly plants directly employed an estimated 14,000 workers. Today both companies continue to be Canada's largest automotive manufacturers, employing about 19,000 Canadians, and the economic benefits extend far beyond the two companies. At the time of the crisis, the Department of Finance estimated that a total of 52,000 jobs were directly or indirectly tied to production at GM and Chrysler. Another study, by Leslie Shiell and Robin Somerville at the IRPP, estimated that in 2010 a total of 100,000 jobs, including jobs in the supplier sector, could have been lost without the restructuring. The study further suggested that in 2009 alone the economy could have suffered losses of $23 billion had GM and Chrysler not successfully restructured. The government's decisive actions ensured that there was business for hundreds of suppliers. The effects even spilled over into industries across the Canadian economy.
Today, all Canadian automakers, including GM and Chrysler, are investing in their operations. In the last two years in particular, each of Canada's five automotive assemblers has reinvested in Canada, and auto parts manufacturers have also invested in their operations. Another sign that the sector is doing well is that Canada's production increased to almost 2.4 million vehicles in 2014. The auto sector will continue to contribute significantly to the Canadian economy for many years to come.
All this work was and continues to be recognized, not only by the industry but also by third party analysis such as the IRPP study I mentioned, which concluded that the restructuring assistance was successful. Furthermore, Industry Canada received recognition for its accomplishments, including in the form of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada's 2010 innovative management award. I believe it is a remarkable success story that we were able to partner quickly and effectively with our counterparts at home and abroad, within and outside of government, to provide sound advice and ultimately save thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses, and to secure a future for Canada's auto sector.
With respect to the automotive innovation fund, I am pleased that the report reflects a program that continues to be well managed. In many respects, it's still early days for the program. It was established in 2008 and seven projects have been supported. The initial projects are just now being completed, yet we know from the initial evaluation we did in 2012 that the program is meeting its short-term objectives. It has leveraged about $2.8 billion in investments since its inception, and as the Auditor General has recommended, we will continue to report against its longer-term objectives as projects are completed.
Mr. Chair, I want to conclude my remarks by noting that we have learned a great deal from these experiences, and the Auditor General's recommendations have helped embed these. The recommendations have highlighted that clear and comprehensive reporting on support provided and the management of that support contributes to the public understanding of the restructuring success. In order to increase the ease of access to the information, last December we published a single summary report on the restructuring support and recoveries. We've also committed to undertaking a review of the management of the restructuring assistance with a focus on identifying lessons learned. This work will be completed this year.
The Auditor General also recommended reviewing how we evaluate proposals for support from the automotive innovation fund, and monitoring the performance of the program.
We have updated the program's risk assessment framework and made explicit the manner in which risk profiles of applicants are assessed. We will also evaluate the program again in 2017-18 to determine to what extent it achieves its long-term objectives.
It is fair to say, just like all Canadians, we hope we never face such a challenge again, requiring us to use the lessons learned from the 2009 crisis.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members. We will be pleased to respond to your questions.
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Jerome Berthelette
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Jerome Berthelette
2015-03-30 16:01
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Mr. Chair, I agree with what you say.
I would make reference to paragraph 5.88, which is our conclusion:
...we concluded that Industry Canada, the Department of Finance Canada, and Export Development Canada managed the financial support to the automotive sector in a way that contributed to the viability of the companies and the competitiveness of the sector...over the short and medium terms.
Generally, this is a good news story.
Mr. Chair, I would then make reference to paragraph 5.23. While I just noted that it is a good news story, there are certain areas where we saw that some more work could have been done. There were areas where there was limited analysis and limited information.
We recognized, as we state in paragraph 5.25, that, “The federal government made its decisions on financial assistance in a period of high uncertainty and within tight time frames.” We understand that. We think more work could have been done in terms of the analysis, maybe relying less on the material presented by the companies and doing a little more independent analysis of it, and perhaps doing a more independent challenge of the information that had been presented.
I think that a final restructuring plan would have been good. It would have provided a place where all of the details related to the restructuring could have been brought together in one place. It would have made it easier for the department and for Canadians to follow what had gone on in the restructuring, and would have made it easier for the department to report against the restructuring.
We have in appendix A, which I believe is at page 25 in my document, some suggestions related to going forward if there is ever another situation like this. We made suggestions related to the planning, monitoring, and public reporting related to such large interventions by the federal government.
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