TORONTO - The Ontario and federal governments are hoping that a recently retired, well-connected auto industry executive can help attract more global investment into Canada's beleaguered automotive sector.
Ray Tanguay, the former head of Toyota's Canadian operations, has been chosen to chair a new auto investment committee at the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council. His role will involve serving as an adviser to the provincial and federal governments as well as the automotive industry.
At a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday, Ontario's minister of economic development highlighted Tanguay's 24 years of industry experience and deep connections in the global auto sector.
"If he makes a call, people are going to pick up the phone," Brad Duguid said. "There's no question — Ray can open some doors for us internationally."
Canada, once an automotive manufacturing powerhouse, has been steadily losing its share of production to Mexico and the southern United States, where labour is cheaper.
"There's no denying that low-cost, low-standard jurisdictions have been getting the lion's share of new (investments)," Duguid said.
Toyota announced earlier this year that it will be moving production of its compact Corolla cars from Cambridge, Ont., to Mexico, and General Motors Canada will be shifting production of the Camaro from Oshawa, Ont., to Lansing, Mich., this year.
"In the old days, Ontario and Canada could allow potential auto investments to come to us without a great deal of marketing or a great deal of solicitation," Duguid said.
"Those days, unfortunately, are gone, which means we're going to have to up our game."
Federal Industry Minister James Moore said Canada's auto industry has a number of competitive advantages, including tariff-free access to other markets, low corporate taxes, high levels of government funding and a talented workforce.
Duguid said Ontario, the hub of the country's auto-manufacturing sector, has simply not been proactive enough in seeking global investments.
"We've often found that by the time we get into the running, the decisions have been made long ago, and we're almost coming from behind," Duguid said.
"We need a better sense of intelligence within the auto sector, both domestically and internationally, so that we get out ahead of some of these mandates. There are opportunities for expansion in the auto sector in North America, but sometimes you need to start working on those leads two, three, four, five years in advance."
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