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OPINION:Bill Walton, Eighty-five Percent

Hang onto that car – you may be driving a Classic
20171015 oldcar walton

If you have ever been to Cuba and marvelled at how the locals kept their pre-1968 cars running, keep that picture in mind. For those who have not had that pleasure, think of the old cars at the Tuesday evening car show in the North Bay Canadian Tire parking lot.

In a recent column I lamented about our foreign-made fighter jets (please don’t tell me we are going to buy used ones) however I think we should now be considering the state of our automobile manufacturing. Mr. Trump has stated that in the NAFTA negotiations the US will demand that all cars and trucks be 85% American made. Bear in mind that if you give that man 85% he’ll want – and take – 100%.

The ramifications for the Canadian auto industry are frightening. In fact, the automakers in Southern Ontario might just as well close their doors. GM can forget about threatening to move their Equinox plant to Mexico unless they are planning on selling their SUV anywhere but in the US of A. There is a limited number of Canadians who would want to buy the unit notwithstanding it was assembled here.

Assembled is the key word. Cars parts are made all over the world – many of them here in Canada. Remember those exploding airbags made by the Japanese company Takata? The faulty airbags were linked to a plant in Mexico but Takata had connections to Germany and China as well as Detroit. Nineteen car companies had or have Takata airbags. We won’t even go into the company’s faulty seat belts.  Bits and pieces of cars and trucks are made and shipped around the world. We even do a little of that part manufacturing here in Canada.

Car parts manufacturing is big business and you can understand why Trump wants it done in the States. It’s that election promise he made about bringing back all those jobs. Actually what he’ll be bringing back are a bunch of robots and computerized systems but that is a small detail in his grand scheme. If he can’t get you a job in the Auto industry he’ll get you one in a coal mine. Millions of jobs will be lost or reassigned around the world if Trump gets his way. Especially if there is a backlash from other countries about buying Made-in-America autos.

It is too late in the game to develop our own car industry. The internal combustion engine is in decline and the replacement by electrics here in the great white north needs some refinement to keep us warm and moving at -30. But the main obstacle is who controls the auto companies:  Trump may harass GM or Ford about moving to Mexico but who are the shareholders of those companies? American shareholders might pay some heed to their President but are they in the majority? Indeed, shares on the market change daily and while a big player like GM (who had to be bailed out – remember) may be more stable than a small parts company, auto companies, like appliance and clothing manufacturers, can move about in this Global Trading world.

We are in a period of flux in trade as we move through the electronic culture. Amazon and Google may be fighting it out while companies like Target and Sears stumble and fall by the wayside. The impacts of the end of NAFTA will be far-reaching for a small player like Canada. We need new alliances with countries other than the United States.

I had already selected a photo for the column and was thinking of a closing paragraph as I drove along Hwy 17 to turn south on Gormanville Rd on Saturday afternoon. I thought that sounding the death knell on NAFTA or blaming the US might work, but then as we were stopped awaiting the green arrow, I was distracted.

Ahead of me was a newish Ford 150 4x4. Beside the truck was a midsized sedan. The details have been changed to protect the idiot in the car other than to say it was a woman, long blonde hair, late twenties – maybe early thirties. In what appeared to be a premeditated move, as soon as our light changed, she powered down her window and threw the contents of half a cup of Tim’s onto the windshield and side of the truck. Then she threw the empty paper cup onto the road and closed her window. The coffee was the colour of a double-double and the truck driver, stunned by this, made his turn and then did a U turn – I assumed to go after the idiot, although the lights were against him making it far too late to catch her.

Thinking of my article on US cars, I immediately said, “If that happened in some parts of the US there would have been an exchange of gunfire.” Of course, the blonde may have just shot the fellow in the truck for she does seem of the mentality to do just that and she would be carrying.

Was there any rationale for throwing the coffee? Was he her ex? Behind in his alimony? PMS? Didn’t like the cut of his jib? The coffee didn’t taste right or was cold? Didn’t she realize there are dash cameras and the ubiquitous cell phones everywhere? Heck, there might have even been a police officer watching her.

Bad enough to throw the coffee but then to toss the empty cup onto the road just added to my indignation. What in heavens name are we coming to?

Anyway, back to NAFTA and the auto industry. When your biggest trading partner has the boots to trample you into the mud and wants to do it, you are in for hard times. Even if you think you are not related in any way to the auto industry, the rest of the trade deal will get you, one way or another, until we figure out a way to find new trading partners. Makes a person angry enough to throw coffee. And the damn paper cup!


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