Credits: Antonella Artuso/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
"My Ontario will always create, build and sell products around the world, and I'll put Ontario workers up against anyone," Hudak said. "But our manufacturing advantages have been beaten down by high taxes, unaffordable energy costs and rigid labour laws."
Touring the plant with Peterborough PC candidate Scott Stewart and company president Paschal McCloskey, Hudak reiterated his controversial plan to adopt American-style labour legislation.
Following in the footsteps of Michigan's anti-union legislation, Hudak has pledged to turn Ontario into a right-to-work jurisdiction where workers could opt out of paying union dues.
During a tour stop late last month, federal Liberal leadership hopeful Sandra Pupatello decried Hudak's labour plans as an attack on Ontario's standard of living, arguing that the PC party was in the "wrong era."
"We have acknowledged that we have a standard of living in Ontario," Pupatello said. "We don't chase cheap labour."
But Hudak said it was the Liberal and NDP parties that are antiquated, treating manufacturing jobs as if they are a thing of the past.
"We need to take our labour laws out of the 1940s and bring them into the 21st century," he said, adding that Canada's global competitors such as the U.S., Britain and Australia have adopted similar right-to-work labour laws.
"Most of the countries we are going to compete with for future jobs, they already have worker choice in their systems."
The PC platform pledges to breathe new life into manufacturing by introducing the new labour laws, lowering corporate taxes, reducing energy costs and enhancing skilled trades education in high schools and colleges.
"Right now, the sad reality is ... Ontario is winning the race to the bottom. We have lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs," Hudak said. "I see a bright future for manufacturing if we make the right decisions today."
The McCloskey plant, which employs roughly 300 people, is no stranger to political staging. Peterborough Liberal MPP Jeff Leal has used the location to promote his government's Eastern Ontario Development Fund, which has given McCloskey International $1.4 million since 2010 to expand its plant and workforce.
McCloskey International manufactures industrial screening and rock crushing machines used in the mining and landscaping sectors. It exports its products around the world.