02/26/2014 02:36 EST | Updated 04/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Windsor mayor's auto ad campaign takes on Tim Hudak

Windsor is publicly defending taxpayer investment in the auto sector and taking on Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

The City of Windsor placed half-page ads in Wednesday's National Post and Globe and Mail newspapers.
Mayor Eddie Francis told CBC News the national ad campaign cost $18,000.

The ads never mention Chrysler by name, but the appear just weeks after Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne began campaigning for government assistance to retool and expand the company's Ontario plants, including the Windsor Assembly Plant. Chrysler's flagship minivans are made in Windsor and are due for an overhaul.

The ads are signed by Francis and paid for through the mayor's office.

"I felt it was very important to demonstrate to the province and to others in the communities that they have an equal stake in this decision," Francis said. "And it's important for us to ensure the silent majority does not remain silent on this particular issue."

Coun. Fulvio Valentinis said council had no say about the ads. Valentinis said Francis sent an email, including the ad, to councillors two days ago letting them know what he had done.

Valentinis said he supports the mayor's decision and that Windsor needs to keep high-paying jobs in the city.

In the ads, Francis explains why he thinks the auto sector is important to Ontario.

“An investment in our automotive industry is a direct investment in our communities, province and country. Taxes paid by the companies and employees are revenues that support our schools and hospitals,” the ad reads, in part. “It is for these reasons that other jurisdictions want what we have. Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mexico have contributed $1.2 billion in incentives to lure investment away from Ontario and from Canada.”

Recently, critics such as Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, have opposed giving the auto sector any public money. Hudak called Marchionne's request "a ransom."

"I thought it was very important to counter the message with real information. The auto industry is our No. 1 industry. The auto industry employs 100,000-plus people, plus 50,000 retirees," Francis said. "On top of that, if you consider every job in the auto industry supports nine others, over one million people depend on the auto industry."

A 2012 report by the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors said employment in the automotive sector in 2010 was a more modest 31,500 jobs, while food processing jobs numbered 127,000.

Francis said he's concerned about the health of the auto industry across the province.

Auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers previously told CBC "one in six, maybe one in five" Ontario jobs is tied to or benefits from a healthy auto industry.