The resurrection of the Chevrolet Camaro remains a sore point for many former General Motors workers near Montreal, but Quebec’s last automotive town has discovered it’s better off in some ways without the troubled carmaker.
The Boisbriand plant shut its doors in 2002, leaving 1,500 people unemployed.
By the time GM decided to resume production last March of the iconic muscle car in Oshawa, the sprawling plant that was the centrepiece of Boisbriand for 35 years had been levelled and efforts were underway to transform the land into an eco-friendly neighbourhood.
Boisbriand, located about 45 kilometres northwest of Montreal, can take comfort in the fact it was able to weather the worst of its own economic storm before the global financial crisis really took hold.
“It was hard for the city, which lost a major tax revenue,” Boisbriand Mayor Sylvie St-Jean said in an interview. “We’re talking $2.2 million. We’re starting to come out of it.”
While the situation is somewhat more dire in cities like Oshawa and Windsor they too are preparing for a future in which the automotive industry plays a smaller role.
In Oshawa in the last year alone, the city lost 10,000 jobs, many of them last May when a truck plant was idled.
Mayor John Gray said while “many families are hurting,” much is being done to mitigate the effects. Despite popular belief, building permits are up as Oshawa continues to attract industrial, commercial, government and institutional investment.
Windsor, Canada’s automotive capital, once supported close to 60,000 automotive jobs. Today, about 12,000 remain. The city’s unemployment rate in May was 13.5 per cent, the highest in Canada.
Mayor Eddie Francis is confident the auto sector won’t completely disappear but he knows it’s changing and, as such, the city is adapting.
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