More Oxford County mayors are throwing their support behind the Auto Mayors Caucus's efforts to push the importance of auto manufacturing to the federal government.
Mayors Stephen Molnar of Tillsonburg and Ted Comiskey of Ingersoll, as well as county Warden David Mayberry, are writing letters that stress the importance of Canada's auto sector to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations loom.
Comiskey, who has been involved with the caucus for six years, said the mayors' group has been researching the potential community impact if the auto-manufacturing sector is weakened.
"I think this is where we, as mayors, should be involved with the ministry and the government when it comes to decisions or support or pushing and rallying - to make sure that the auto industry within Canada and Ontario, and certainly Oxford County, stays very strong," Comiskey said.
Two of the largest auto plants in Canada are located in Oxford County - the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada plant in Woodstock and the GM-owned CAMI Automative plant in Ingersoll.
Comiskey said the number of people connected to these auto plants in Oxford County is "phenomenally high."
"The trade agreement that happens between the U.S. and Canada is going to have a great effect on these large plants staying within our community," Comiskey said. "The cost of operating in Canada has to remain in a situation that makes it advantageous for them to be here ... In Ingersoll, you have a plant of 3,000 people and a population of (12,000). So not all of them work there, but the effect that it would have on the community would be very severe."
Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch voices his support of the Auto Mayors Caucus last month, telling the Sentinel-Review this campaign is going to serve as a reminder to the government to make sure they understand the broader implications these negotiations have for all of southwestern Ontario.
"Seeing what has transpired recently with the new president of the United States, now more than ever we need to remain unified in making sure that all of the interests of those individuals that depend on the automobile sector, for the community and for their livelihood, are protected," Birtch said.
While U.S. President Donald Trump originally vowed to scrap the trade pact, he has since promised to renegotiate, an about-face that came after meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his own advisers. The renegotiation of the wide-reaching trade deal, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 1994, is set to begin late next month.