The General gets a pass

Only in Canada. Pity. Don Martin is disgusted:

Begging for bailout, GM gets easy ride
MPs not brave enough to ask tough questions
They summoned General Motors to Parliament Hill under cover of darkness this week, giving no advance notice that key witnesses would be paraded before a new subcommittee studying the largest bailout in Canadian history.
Given that $3-billion worth of taxpayer money is about to be lent to this faltering company, an amount matching its entire Canadian investment for the past three years, one might have expected a showcase daylight hearing, hard MP questions, truthful GM answers and perhaps some executive remorse for saddling taxpayers with the cost of their corporate failure.
But when the executives for the quivering auto giant made their 90-minute evening appearance, they were hailed for taking “time out of busy schedules” which proves, in one MP’s view, a “commitment to your company and to Canada and your commitment to openness and transparency to Canadians.”
These guys want a $90 loan from each and every Canadian and we’re supposed to be impressed they show up to answer a few questions?
But what’s worse than giving deferential treatment to bailout beggars was what appeared to be evasive answers tinged with selective truths that did not reflect major corporate developments that were announced 12 hours later.
The fact General Motors’ own auditors were doubting the company’s survival without bankruptcy protection was never revealed to MPs, even though Canadian president Arturo Elias had to know the red flag would be raised the next morning in the company’s annual report.
[…]
Nobody questioned a pension load the company admits is “unsustainable” or retiree health benefits it cannot afford [“but the company shouldn’t be “overzealous” in any pursuit of wage and benefit cuts to stay alive, union president Ken Lewenza said.”] The subcommittee meekly let slide General Motors’ reluctant admission that its Canadian assets had already been pledged to U. S. and other lenders, leaving nothing by way of collateral if the company defaults on its government loan…

Mark C.
Damian adds: wouldn’t you love to see an MP or Congressman hold up a big photo of a Pontiac Aztek – a lime-green Aztek, like the one I saw yesterday – and ask the executives, “what the hell were you thinking?”
Update: An excellent piece by Dennis DesRosiers, Canada’s best auto industry analyst, on North American vehicular lunacy (via John B. in “Comments”):

The Automotive World has gone mad

Upperdate: Some CAW sanity, at last:

GM, Canadian union agree to wage, pension freeze
[…]
These savings are estimated at tens of millions of dollars, based on labor cost reductions of “several dollars per hour [emphasis added]” for each of GM’s roughly 10,000 unionized staff in Ontario province…

Enough?

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3 thoughts on “The General gets a pass

  1. “but the company shouldn’t be “overzealous” in any pursuit of wage and benefit cuts to stay alive, union president Ken Lewenza said.”
    Can anyone corroborate this statement by Dennis DesRosiers in an article in the Saturday Toronto Star?
    “Pension funds of the Detroit Three are underfunded by billions of dollars and governments may have to make up the difference. But CAW members don’t contribute to their pensions.”
    “Why should governments have to bail out pension plans for workers who don’t put into their own plans? A world gone mad.”
    BTW – the opinion piece is well worth a read – titled “The Automotive World has gone mad”
    http://www.wheels.ca/articlecategory/article/515136

  2. Even at this level of failure – it would still be ridiculous for any government entity to pretend to know better. You think the Aztek was a failure? Imagine if it had been designed by MPs or Congressmen.

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