Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is expected to receive tens of millions of dollars in grants from the Ontario government to aid investments by the automaker in Windsor.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to announce the about grants Wednesday morning at the University of Windsor/Fiat Chrysler Automotive Research and Development Centre, according to two sources familiar with the announcement who are not authorized to speak publicly about the private talks.
Officials with Fiat Chrysler and the Ontario government declined to comment on the announcement. The Globe and Mail, a nationally distributed newspaper in Canada, first reported the aid would be about C$80 million ($62 million).
The Canadian Press Tuesday afternoon reported that the Ontario government will provide more than C$85 million ($66 million) to the automaker, which would create about 1,200 new jobs and help secure the 4,000 existing positions at the Windsor plant.
The government grants come after the company spent more than $2.6 billion without government incentives on the research and development of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan, including significant investment to the Windsor Assembly plant that builds the vehicle.
The grants are expected for Fiat Chrysler’s earlier investment in Windsor Assembly as well as an investment at the Research and Development Centre, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
In 2014, Fiat Chrysler dropped a request for provincial and federal Canadian financial assistance after its request turned into a political football leading up to the country’s elections. The company reportedly requested hundreds of millions of dollars in government aid for investments in Ontario.
The Ontario government’s action follows Canada’s election of a Liberal government in November, ousting the Conservatives who didn’t support incentives. It comes two months before Unifor opens contract negotiations with Fiat Chrysler, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.
Unifor President Jerry Dias told The News earlier this month that the union has had “unprecedented access” to new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office, which has resulted in “meaningful discussions.”
“I believe that the federal Liberal government has a much better understanding of what needs to be done,” Dias said.
A Unifor National spokesman wasn’t available for comment.
Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, which represents workers at Windsor Assembly, said any support or collaboration is a “step in the right direction” for Ontario and the auto industry.
“We obviously thought it would be important for the government to support the investment Fiat Chrysler put into Windsor Assembly plant,” Chiodo said Tuesday.
Chiodo thanked Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne during an event to celebrate Pacifica production in May for investing in the plant without government subsidies. No government officials were in attendance at the event — an unusual absence for a plant investment or launch celebration.
Unifor, formerly the Canadian Auto Workers, faces an uphill battle when it enters talks in August for 23,000 members at the Detroit automakers.
Canada’s auto industry has been in decline as automakers have moved to invest in Mexico and other regions with lower labor costs, while Canadian public officials refused to offer them incentives for investment. According to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, auto manufacturing jobs declined by 8.2 percent from 2008, to 104,500 last year.
Dias said he won’t sign any contracts that don’t cement Canada’s production footprint and bring new investments.
“The facts are, if you go through the last eight years, Mexico has opened eight assembly plants and Canada’s lost two,” he said. “It’s clear to us that if the Detroit Three do not invest in Canada in this round, we will end up with more closures.”
Wynne, the Ontario premier, is scheduled to meet separately with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Joseph Hinrichs, Ford executive vice president and president of the Americas, Wednesday on topics unrelated to the Fiat Chrysler announcement.