Feds to invest $250 million in auto industry

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces the renewal of the Automotive Innovation Fund at the Ford...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces the renewal of the Automotive Innovation Fund at the Ford assembly plant in Oakville on January 4, 2013. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter

, Last Updated: 4:16 PM ET

OTTAWA — The feds are pumping another $250 million into the automotive sector to help manufacturers develop stronger, safer and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper used a Ford plant Friday to announce the five-year top-up of the Automotive Innovation Fund, created in 2008 to help the then-struggling sector weather the economic crisis.

The industry has since rebounded and is showing near-record sales as consumers gain confidence and dump their clunkers. The government says the initial $250 million spurred $1.6 billion in spinoff investments.

Friday's announcement followed surprising economic numbers that showed 40,000 jobs were created last month — 30,000 of them in Ontario — to bring the unemployment rate to a four-year low at 7.1%.

The prime minister said he didn't want to read too much into those figures and warned of continuing economic instability in Europe and squabbling in the U.S. Congress some say is stifling growth, yet he couldn't resist boasting.

"I remind people that we have more Canadians working today than ever before. We are one of the very few advanced industrial economies that can say that."

He also panned arguments from those who blame Alberta's energy sector for artificially inflating the value of the dollar and hurting the manufacturing sector.

Harper said the surge in vehicle sales is being driven by provinces rich in resources "especially Saskatchewan and Alberta and in particular the oilsands."

"A strong resource sector in the West means high quality manufacturing jobs in the East," he said.

Mark.Dunn@sunmedia.ca

Twitter:MarkDunnSun


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