Wynne offers $200k to help Leamington recover in wake of Heinz closure

LEAMINGTON, Ont. – Premier Kathleen Wynne says those affected by the planned closure of the Heinz plant in Leamington, Ont., will be getting aid from the government, but the opposition parties aren’t impressed.

Wynne travelled to the southwestern Ontario tomato-growing centre on Friday to announce the province will provide up to $200,000 from the Communities in Transition program.

The funding will help Leamington identify and pursue new opportunities for growth, Wynne said.

And the province’s Rapid Re-employment and Training Service will also help employees affected by the closure plan their next steps, find new jobs or get new skills, she added.

Heinz announced last week that the shutdown will be phased in over the next six to eight months, eliminating 740 full-time, permanent jobs.

Up to 500 seasonal workers hired each year during tomato-harvesting season will also be affected.

“I want the people of Leamington to know that they have our support,” Wynne said.

“Their work has contributed to the economic strength of this province and we will make sure that in return, we support their needs during this challenging time,” she said.

However, Chatham-Kent-Essex Tory MPP Rick Nicholls questioned why it took Wynne a week to visit Leamington for a “photo op.”

“I wanted her to look the people of our community in the eye and apologize for Liberal policies that led Heinz to close the local plant,” said Nicholls.

“Instead, she smiled for the cameras. She owes our community more than a photo op,” Nicholls said.

New Democrat Percy Hatfield invoked the gas plant closures in Oakville and Mississauga, saying “the Liberals didn’t think twice about spending over $1 billion to cancel gas plants in the GTA” to save seats in the last election.

“The Liberals put 5,000 times more money into saving Liberal jobs than they’re putting into Leamington,” said Hatfield, who represents Windsor–Tecumseh.

Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Brad Duguid said the government is working with the United Food and Commercial Workers union and anyone impacted by the Heinz plant closure in an effort to help displaced workers.

“I encourage all affected workers to take advantage of Employment Ontario’s employment and training services to find the help they need to plan their next steps and find a new job,” Duguid said.