Saturday, March 7, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Bad, bad news for Milton this week. Two of the town's major employers have announced that they are shutting down - first SKD, and now Meritor, both of which supply parts for the auto industry. Between the two they employed fewer than 400 people in town, but the implications are far more dire.

About 35 per cent of the private sector jobs in Milton are in the auto sector, with up to a fifth of residents working in the industry. Five of the town’s 10 largest employers are auto parts manufacturing plants, including SKD and two facilities owned by Magna.

Those two Magna plants alone employ 1,700 people - and Magna's been having a rough few months.

All of this inspired the increasingly impressive Tim Foran to write an op-ed that was... could it be?... maybe just a little.... critical of Our Lord Mayor Gord.

I know. I was shocked too.

Through his 43 years on council, 28 as reigning Mayor of Milton, Gord Krantz has picked up pithy phrases for virtually any situation.

Asked about averages, he’ll warn, “If your head’s in the freezer and your feet are in the oven, then the middle of your body — the average — is warm.”

Asked about capital projects, he’ll tell you one has to decide if it’s a want, a need, or a nice-to-have.

It’s a communication method the conservative politician uses to stress an attitude of cautious consideration, and it’s certainly calming. It’s especially salient when compared to uber-councillor Colin Best, he of the constant presence around town, who has not yet learned to translate his work ethic and diligent examination of political affairs into an ability to communicate a message clearly.

Since the global recession began, the Mayor’s message has been consistent with the middle path he generally takes: Milton is not immune to the gathering storm but the Town will do well weathering it.

Under the circumstances, it seems like the most politically astute position. Panic and you sound like Chicken Little; ignore it and you look like Nero fiddling while the Town burns.

“This is what happens when you’ve been around a day or two as I have. You’ve been through those peaks and valleys,” Krantz recently said at a Milton Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

But now, the cyclical trough Krantz speaks of has become a widening chasm in Ontario, with manufacturing jobs being lost by the thousands.

Already this winter season, three of Milton’s largest employers have received protection from creditors, and it appears one of them, the local plant of the auto manufacturing company SKD Automotive, is on the verge of shutting down — resulting in hundreds of lost Milton jobs.

The Mayor had previously predicted the local auto industry would be affected, “but not greatly”, with some layoffs, “but not major.”

His optimism though seems based on his tried-and- true method of staying on message rather than recognition of current realities.

Trust me - for the Champion, that's positively damning.

I sure hope Tim still has a job next week.

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