The Volkswagen file weighed down by the lack of manpower

The Volkswagen file weighed down by the lack of manpower

The folder Volkswagen weighed down by the lack of manpower

Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press “To promise Volkswagen that we would have 6,000 people in Sept-Îles, I did not had the audacity to do that,” Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon explained of the plant the company wanted to set up in Quebec.

Quebec Minister of Economy and Energy Pierre Fitzgibbon says lack of manpower played a role in Volkswagen's choice to locate its proposed battery plant elsewhere , which required a supply of electricity within too tight deadlines.

Mr. Fitzgibbon explained Thursday that Hydro-Québec could have responded to it in Saguenay or on the North Shore, but that the German company needed 4,000 to 6,000 employees for its electric car battery plant project, which was impossible in these two regions. “To promise Volkswagen that we would have 6,000 people in Sept-Îles, I didn't have the audacity to do that,” he explained.

Volkswagen wanted to settle in the Montreal region to take advantage of the more abundant workforce, but “the megawatt requirements for Montreal in the first quarter of 2027 were technically impossible,” said the minister in a press briefing. Connecting a company facility to the Hydro-Québec network on time would have been possible further north, however. “We can do it in Saguenay, we can do it in Sept-Îles, but they wanted to do it in Montreal,” Mr. Fitzgibbon explained.

Volkswagen decided this week that its subsidiary PowerCo would build an electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in St. Thomas, Ontario.

A question of transportation capacity

In the current case, it is power transmission capacity — not lack of power — that has prevented the project in the Montreal area, even though Hydro-Quebec is already seeing the moment when demand will exceed its supply. “The 800 MW is there, in Labrador or in James Bay,” Mr. Fitzgibbon said. Getting him to Montreal is the problem. It's not so much to have other sources as to carry it around. »

The government will work twice as hard over the next few years with a plan to deploy 1,000 new wind turbines per year, the Minister also underlined.

Employment Minister Kateri Champagne Jourdain, who is also responsible for the North Shore region, did not comment on labor issues in her region raised by her colleague Fitzgibbon. “The information I had was that Volkswagen was looking for land around Montreal,” she said.

Ms. Champagne Jourdain pointed out that other projects were on the horizon. the study for the bay of Sept-Îles, which, she said, has many advantages for economic development. “It is certain that as regional minister, I will make sure to move these projects forward,” she said.

“A failure,” says the opposition

PQ MP Joël Arseneau said that, in this case, François Legault is suffering the consequences of his lack of vision, planning and anticipation. “It's a failure, it's a rejection. And then, the Prime Minister, who likes to compare himself to Ontario, he has just eaten a whole lot with a decision like that, “he said in a press briefing.

< p>M. Arseneau recalled that Minister Fitzgibbon had rightly highlighted the importance of attracting a manufacturer of batteries for electric cars. “We are being beaten by Ontario, which will be able to accommodate a Volks plant, while we say that we do not have the energy to do so.

Liberal MP Jennifer Maccarone also quipped about the turn of events. “We have nevertheless seen that Mr. Fitzgibbon, for years our superminister, who is supposed to be the dealmaker, has just missed an opportunity to have a deal “, she underlined in a press briefing.