Magna CEO: Anti-pipeline blockades are 'insane' and risk Canada's prosperity

Magna CEO Don Walker speaks during the company's Annual Shareholder Meeting in Toronto, May 8, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris (CANADA - Tags: BUSINESS TRANSPORT)

The chief executive of Canada’s largest automotive parts manufacturer said the anti-pipeline protests that have disrupted the country’s supply chain over the last few weeks are “crazy” and “insane” and could damage Canada’s long-term prosperity.

Speaking to reporters following the company’s investor day in Toronto on Thursday, Magna International CEO Don Walker said the situation “has to be resolved because I do think it’s crazy.”

“Every time you want to protest or break the law or risk people’s lives or safety all because you want your voice to be heard without having a big picture view on it – which I’m sure the politicians are taking a big picture view – then all we’re going to do is damage our long-term prosperity in the country. And I think what’s happening, I’ve said it before, it’s insane,” Walker said.

“I can understand why people have opinions, but we need to come together as a country and figure out what we want to do, because all we’re doing is destroying value in this country and that means we’re all going to be poorer.”

The anti-pipeline blockades began earlier this month and have disrupted supply chain and transportation operations across the country, bringing some freight and passenger rail to a virtual standstill. Demonstrators are protesting in solidarity with opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia. Some industries had warned that the blockades would lead to layoffs and production cuts.

While Magna’s operations have not been disrupted by the blockades, Walker said the headlines regarding the protests sends a message to foreign investors “that Canada is probably not the best place to invest in.”

“Overall, I think we have the potential to be very competitive, but I’m a little bit worried based on some of the decisions that are being made and some of the interruptions and some of the dialogue,” he said.

Among the decisions that concern Walker is government deficit spending “into oblivion” and how that debt will be paid off by future generations.

According to new report from the Parliament’s budget watchdog, the federal Liberals could still add billions of spending and keep federal finances sustainable in the long run. Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux says based on current policies and programs, the federal government could permanently increase spending or reduce taxes by around $41 billion and maintain its current debt-to-GDP ratio over the long term.

On Thursday, Walker commended the Ontario government for trying to become more efficient, a move he says Magna also does on an annual basis.

“We’ll make decisions that are the best for our employees and our shareholders,” Walker said.

“But as a Canadian, we need to have a better dialogue and have people stop complaining about everything. We need to become more efficient and more productive as a country.”

With files from the Canadian Press

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