Canada Auto Union Alarmed by Tough Emissions Talk
OTTAWA -- Canada's largest private sector union said on Thursday that thousands of jobs in the auto industry could be at risk if a left-leaning opposition party succeeds in persuading the government to quickly introduce binding emissions standards on vehicles.
Jack Layton, who heads the New Democratic Party, says he will not consider propping up the minority Conservative government unless it brings in new emissions rules for vehicles immediately to curb greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove wrote to Layton to say he and his union members had been "taken aback" by the tough comments on emissions.
"If this issue is not handled delicately and thoughtfully, we could see thousands of auto workers' jobs destroyed," he said in an open letter requesting a meeting with Layton.
But Layton said the plan being pushed by the NDP is the same "Green Car" strategy that the CAW supported when it was introduced in a joint appearance by Layton, Hargrove and representatives of Greenpeace in July 2003.
That strategy called for federal legislation that would require new vehicles sold in Canada to be 25 percent more fuel efficient by 2010.
Layton told reporters in Vancouver on Thursday that the Canadian auto sector, which employs about 168,000 people, risks job loss if it does not begin producing more environmentally friendly vehicles because consumers will buy them from elsewhere.
The Conservative government has said it will impose binding limits once a voluntary emissions agreement with the auto companies runs out in 2010.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the public wants the government to do more to tackle the issue of climate change, and Hargrove also wants a meeting with the Conservatives. new environment minister, John Baird.
Hargrove warned of job losses when word circulated in October that the Conservatives were eyeing new auto emission standards. He accused them of punishing the auto industry to protect the energy industry in Western Canada, the heartland of the Conservatives' support.
Layton said on Wednesday he wanted the government to move on emissions before the next federal budget, which is expected in February or March.
The New Democrats have long relied on the CAW and other unions for financial and political support, but Hargrove split from the party -- and had his NDP membership suspended -- when he urged workers to strategically vote for the Liberals to stop the Conservatives in the last election.