Ford getting $150M for Essex Engine Plant program

Trudeau will be in Windsor for the announcement, and will highlight AI in Ontario post budget tour.

March 30, 2017   The Canadian Press

WINDSOR, Ont. — Justin Trudeau’s post-budget tour continues today through Ontario’s industrial heartland, where the prime minister will spell out what his federal Liberal government is doing to help foster innovation in Canada’s auto sector.

Trudeau will be joined by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for a morning announcement at a Ford engine plant in Windsor.

The Globe and Mail reported the federal and Ontario governments will be providing $150 million for Ford’s planned $700 million investment in its Essex Engine Plant, which has been selected for the new 7X engine program. The 6.9-litre V8 will replace a 6.8-litre V10 made for F10 pickup trucks.

Later in the day, Trudeau visits auto parts giant Magna International Inc. in Brampton, Ont., to highlight Ottawa’s investments in artificial intelligence research, which were laid out in last week’s federal budget.


Wynne and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are also scheduled to visit the Vector Institute, a burgeoning facility in Toronto that’s widely pegged as the new international hub for AI innovation.

In recent months, the federal and Ontario governments have actively discussed major investments in the big automakers. Last December, one auto union leader estimated the combined public investments could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

After the conclusion of labour negotiations last year, the auto companies launched talks with Ontario and Ottawa about investing in an industry critical to the both economies.

The automotive sector employs about 125,000 people in assembly and parts production.
Last week’s federal budget proposed to consolidate several “business innovation” programs, including the Automotive Innovation Fund and the Automotive Supplier Innovation program. Both offer “non-repayable contributions” for the auto sector.

Ford investing $1.2B in 3 Michigan plants, adding 130 jobs

Earlier this year, Ottawa made changes to its Automotive Innovation Fund that enabled the government to provide grants to car companies. Before the changes, the program offered loans.

In its budget, the feds proposed to roll the two auto programs under a new, broader umbrella called the Strategic Innovation Fund, which will allocate $1.26 billion over five years.

The budget also announced $125 million for the launch of an artificial-intelligence strategy. It aims to leverage Canada’s already-significant expertise in AI, so the country can become a world leader in a field packed with economic potential.

The AI strategy will seek to strengthen collaboration between what Ottawa identified as Canada’s main centres of expertise: Edmonton, Montreal and the Toronto-Waterloo region.

Federal Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, who will also attend the Windsor announcement, has said the feds are open to helping the automakers expand their footprints in Canada.

He’s indicated a particular interest in investments that would support the more technologically advanced and research-focused areas of the auto industry.

Bains, in charge of overseeing Ottawa’s “innovation agenda,” has also said the government wants to make sure Canada is on the “cutting edge of the car of the future.”

Last year, the three largest North American automakers committed to pump more than $1 billion combined into their Canadian operations following contract talks with their unionized workers.

Ford has said it would invest about $700 million at its Ontario facilities.

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