Canada’s largest private sector union says the country’s once-thriving auto industry is at an “inflection point” and that a reset is in order to ensure auto manufacturing in this country is able to grow for years to come.

Unifor’s Auto Policy Working Group unveiled a five-point plan to revamp the sector on Thursday.

“At this inflection point, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a new narrative for the auto sector – one that benefits workers and communities across the country,” the report said.

The core pillars of the 44-page plan include growing the domestic industry, managing the transition to net-zero emissions, enhancing workers’ skills, creating more high-quality union jobs and fostering inclusive workforces.

The union’s policy group is comprised of local union leaders, various board members from the Auto Council, Independent Parts Supplier Council and Unifor’s National Executive Board, as well as national staff.

“The goal is to map a path toward a sustainable auto industry, one that de-risks the future for autoworkers, buffering them against the pitfalls of vulnerable global supply chains, free trade and unregulated capital,” the report said.

“If done right, the rebirth of Canada’s powerhouse auto sector will provide a blueprint on how to bridge efforts at environmental stewardship with economic empowerment and inclusive growth for others to follow.”

Among the lengthy list of recommendations to help grow the industry, the union wants to see Canada use its critical minerals resources to better position itself in the auto supply chain and to begin producing more electric vehicle battery-grade materials. It also wants to see more semiconductors produced domestically.

“I actually see the union is playing a critical role here. We do a lot of work on reconciliation in our union. And I think it's really important that we understand that we cannot be going forward with future mining developments if we are not having the consent of indigenous communities in order for that to happen. And I think our union is in is positioned in a very good place to be able to be part of those conversations,” Lana Payne, Unifor’s newly elected national president, said in a press conference on Thursday.

The report also called for a program to help auto parts makers and workers transition their facilities and skill sets to produce electric vehicle components.

The federal government has implemented a goal for all new light-duty vehicle sales to be zero-emission by 2035. To help meet that target, the union suggested introducing more purchase incentives and vehicle trade-in programs for consumers to raise demand for electric cars.

“The turn of the century proved a watershed moment for the domestic industry as autoworkers faced new global competitive threats and shifting supply chains,” the report said.

It pointed out that in 1999, Canada ranked as one of the top five global auto manufacturers, and since 2001, the Canadian auto sector workforce has shrank by 35,000 jobs.