Critics slam Tories’ $250 million auto investment as corporate welfare

PM Stephen Harper says the Automotive Innovation Fund has helped the industry become more competitive.

The federal government is doling out another huge chunk of taxpayer money.

On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a $250 million investment into the Automotive Innovation Fund, which was set up in 2008 to help the Canada's automotive industry become more innovative and competitive.

"Our Government remains focused on creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity and to keeping Canada's automotive manufacturing sector globally competitive and innovative," Harper said as part of a PMO press release.

"The Automotive Innovation Fund has a proven track record of generating results for Canadians in terms of jobs, prosperity and foreign investment in Canada."

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According to the Canadian Press, the fund requires automakers and auto suppliers to invest their own money to access government cash.

This investment isn't coming with a lot of fanfare outside of the auto-sector — especially since it's been only four years since the federal and Ontario governments 'invested' $13.7 billion into General Motors and Chrysler as part of the so-called 'bail-out package.'

According to Mark Milke of the Fraser Institute, we've only recouped a portion of that initial investment.

Stephen Harper meets Ford of Canada production workers at the Oakville Assembly Plant. (Reuters)"Canadians are still out $5.5 billion on the last bailout, some of that permanently," he told Yahoo! Canada News, referencing a 2012 article he wrote for the Financial Post.

"The final loss will depend on what Ottawa and Ontario sell their General Motors shares for."

Milke adds that the bailout and this latest $250 million investment is nothing more than corporate welfare.

"The only reason that politicians do this is for the local votes," he said.

"Apparently Mr. Harper said there's a six-to-one payback ... in terms of either economic activity or tax revenues for this latest round of corporate welfare.

"That's absurd logic. If Mr. Harper really believes that, then he should be spending not $250 million but $250 billion on subsidizing every business in the country."

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Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation says that he is also disappointed by the new investment.

"Canadian taxpayers have lost billions on their investment in General Motors shares, even as Wall Street investment bankers and auto-industry insiders made a killing from slicing and dicing the old GM in the restructuring process," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"Just because governments in the United States are plunging deeper in debt to subsidize the auto industry doesn't mean that Canada needs to throw good money after bad. A job you have to pay for is no job at all."

Corporate welfare is not just a Tory practice, of course.

According to a 2009 study, conducted by Milke, Canadian governments — federal, provincial and municipal — spent a total of $203 billion to bail out businesses between 1994 and 2007.

That, Milke says, equates to $15,126 for every Canadian who files taxes.

(Photo courtesy The Canadian Press)

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