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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Delay in Stellantis EV battery plant deal ‘unacceptable,’ Windsor’s mayor says amid stalled negotiations

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says he is “deeply concerned” after two weeks of negotiations between the federal and provincial governments and Stellantis have failed to produce a new deal for the NextStar EV battery plant in Windsor. 

“Each passing day increases the likelihood that Windsor, its workers, residents, and businesses will not receive the commitments made to them,” Dilkens said in a statement Friday afternoon. 

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens is urging residents to sign a petition calling on the federal government to finalize a deal with automaker Stellantis on the NextStar battery facility in Windsor. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Dilkens circulated a petition, which calls on the federal government to “finalize all outstanding financial matters” related to the NextStar battery factory, and urged all residents to sign. 

“It is unacceptable for Windsor to be shortchanged or forced to accept a scaled-down version due to unfulfilled promises by the federal government,” he said. 

A Stellantis spokesperson confirmed to CBC New Friday construction at the module portion of the EV battery facility still had not resumed. 

Stellantis initially paused construction on the module portion of its EV battery facility nearly two weeks ago, saying it was looking into “contingency plans,” claiming the federal government hadn’t kept its promises in negotiations.

The deal for the facility, due to open in 2024, was upended by the passage of the United States Inflation Reduction Act, which includes production incentives for companies building electric vehicle batteries stateside. 

Hundreds more jobs on the line if Stellantis pulls out: Invest WindsorEssex

The need to reach a deal has reached a “critical point,” said Joe Goncalves, vice-president of  investment attraction and strategic initiatives for Invest WindsorEssex. 

“I think this is at the 11th hour where a decision is around the corner, the project has been stopped now for 9,10 days,” Goncalves said. 

Province putting more money into Stellantis deal to save EV battery plant, says Premier Doug Ford

Premier Doug Ford said that the provincial government will put more money on the table in the Stellantis deal after Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland called on Ontario to pay its fair share in the deal.

Goncalves said he’s heard from U.S. sources that Stellantis is considering a site in Michigan with an existing building that would be adapted to suit manufacturing battery modules. 

While the battery module portion of the facility is responsible for about 300 of the 2,500 jobs the project would bring to the region, Goncalves said there are at least 700 more jobs linked to the Stellantis investment, that could be in jeopardy. 

Invest WindsorEssex has also been fielding calls from other companies they’re working with related to the automotive supply chain looking at investing in Windsor, wondering “if it’s the right place to do business,” he said. 

“Frankly, these jobs are our jobs. They’re not for Michigan, they’re not for Indiana, they’re not for Toronto, they’re not for Quebec. They’re for us,” Goncalves said. “I think that we need as a community to really fight hard because these jobs are for our children, for our grandchildren, for the future of our community.”

Goncalves said the Stellantis deal is about more than jobs for the Windsor region, adding the loss of the battery deal could hurt the community’s credibility for future investment. 

“As a community, we’ve struggled for the last 20 years to reinvent ourselves,” he said. “We worked hard over the last year and a half … to really make that transition. Now, it’s carpets being pulled out from under us. “

Goncalves said he believes there is still a chance to reach a deal.

Transportation minister ‘confident’ 

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was in Windsor Friday for an announcement at Morterm Ltd.

 Asked about Stellantis, he said he couldn’t discuss the ongoing negotiations but said “there is a commitment and a sense of confidence that hopefully soon we’ll have good news.”

“We’re confident that we’re going to find a way to ensure that the plant will not only remain, [but] will flourish and hire more people from this region, produce more cars and revitalize the automotive sector here,” Alghabra said. 

Two men in suits speak into multiple microphones.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra (right), joined in Windsor by Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk (left) said on Friday, May 26, the federal government is “committed” to reaching a deal with Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions on the EV battery plant in Windsor. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Alghabra was joined by Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Irek Kusmierczyk, who said the federal government was “absolutely focused” on securing the Stellantis jobs for the Windsor region. 

“When residents get a chance to see the math … they will recognize that this federal government has been there, has their backs, has made a serious, historic, unprecedented investment in the future of auto workers in this community,” Kusmierczyk said. 

“They’ll also understand the scale of the investment that we’re talking about here requires partnerships, requires all partners to stretch.”

Kusmierczyk said he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while he was in Woodstock, Ont., Thursday for a campaign event. Trudeau also made a quick stop in St. Thomas, Ont.

“It requires the federal government, the provincial government, Unifor and Stellantis and the City of Windsor to work together and to stretch to get this across the finish line. But make no mistake. This federal government … is absolutely fully committed to this battery plant here in Windsor,” Kusmierczyk said.

A man in a blue suit speaks in a warehouse.
Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Andrew Dowie said the provincial government was there to ‘support’ the Canadian federal government in securing a deal on the Stellantis/LG Energy Solutions EV battery module facility in Windsor. Pictured on Friday, May 26, 2023. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

But Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Andrew Dowie said the provincial government had “stepped up” with an additional funding commitment last week. 

“Like all Windsorites, I look forward to that announcement of successful discussions as quickly as possible,” Dowie said. “It is in the hands of the federal government to conclude their discussions with Stellantis and LG [Energy Solution] and ensure the project is successful.

“We’re there to support the federal government in their discussions with Stellantis.”

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