Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association is urging Ottawa to involve themselves in Canadian contract talks between the Detroit Three and Unifor.

The parts makers are asking Ottawa to immediately alter the federal Automotive Innovation Fund (AIF), changing the $500 million loan-based fund into a grant-based incentive program in order to spur investment in Canadian manufacturing facilities.

"When the companies sit down with Unifor in the coming weeks, we ask that you make clear to all parties that Canada remains committed to continued automotive manufacturing in Ontario," wrote Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association in a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Your government must be an active partner in the negotiation of future product mandates for success in an increasingly competitive global context."

New product investment is the crux of Unifor's current contract negotiations with the Detroit Three--the union promising strikes unless the automakers commit to investments across their Canadian plants.

While the Ontario government offers a grant-based incentive program, the loan-based AIF is a legacy program launched by the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper. The OEMs have criticized the plan in the past, especially when other regions, especially lower cost regions are offering juicy incentives to set up shop.

"Whether it's Honda, Toyota, GM, Chrysler or Ford, they all know the federal program is a complete joke," Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, told the Windsor Star "That's why we have had no new (capacity) auto investment in over a decade."

For its part, Trudeau's Liberals already renewed the $500 million fund back in March, but have been noncommittal in terms of making immediate structural changes to the program.

"The government is committed to reviewing approaches to maximize the impact of federal support offered to the automotive sector, including assessing the terms of the AIF," said Philip Proulx, spokesman for Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains.

But with the current contract expiring nearly on September 19, any favorable action would need to occur right away--which when it comes to politics...