1 hour, 56 minutes ago
By Michael Oliveira
PORT ELGIN, Ont. (CP) - The Canadian Auto Workers union targeted the federal Conservatives and the "insanity" of the environmental movement Friday as delegates talked strategy with an election ever looming and an Ontario provincial vote less than six months away.
Although historically linked with the New Democrats, union president Buzz Hargrove invited Ontario's Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty to speak and saved his criticisms for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and environmentalists who want the auto sector targeted to fight climate change.
The upcoming elections are fuelling a lot of rhetoric as politicians try to "out green" one another, Hargrove said.
"Politicians are running with it now because Canadians are saying it's a key issue in the upcoming election and it just infuriates me," Hargrove said in a wide-ranging address to delegates.
"We stand to lose 150,000 jobs in our auto industry if the insanity of this environmental movement is allowed to continue."
Canada is only responsible for about two per cent of the world's total greenhouse gas production and shutting down the entire country would barely make an impact, Hargrove said.
Still, Hargrove said the union is supportive of the Kyoto Accord - as long as timetables are flexible enough for industries to meet them.
Hargrove said he was impressed by McGuinty's recent statement that the auto industry shouldn't necessarily phase out gas guzzlers like SUVs because, realistically, they're not going away.
The manufacturers should instead try to make the vehicles more fuel efficient and environmentally sound because there's big money to be made if those innovations are developed, McGuinty said.
"Going green isn't necessarily about going small," McGuinty told delegates Friday, adding he wants that technology to be made in Ontario.
"It will be good for jobs and good for the economy."
A move away from supporting the NDP has worked well for the union, considering McGuinty has been "a great supporter of issues that are important to our union," said Hargrove.
"We have to work with whoever's elected to try to get policy in the best interests of members families and communities ... and the premier's done an incredible amount," he said.
While a few delegates quietly booed when the premier's name was announced, during question and answer periods they chose to attack Harper for not support their industry.
Hargrove also said the union will consider employing strategic voting whenever the next federal vote is held in an attempt to avoid a Conservative majority government.
The union says the manufacturing sector produces 18 per cent of the country's overall economic activity, but almost 333,000 jobs have been lost in the last four years and there's no evidence the slide is coming to an end.
Copyright © 2007 Canadian Press