Quebec opposition parties critical of Ottawa’s aid response to Bombardier
QUEBEC — The federal response to Bombardier’s request for financial assistance is yet another sign of Ottawa giving short shrift to Quebec, Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee said Wednesday.
In a familiar refrain, Lisee bemoaned that the $372.5 million Ottawa has offered the Quebec-based aerospace giant in interest-free loans is chump change when compared to the money the federal government has given Ontario’s automobile industry.
Lisee’s conclusion: that Quebec is always the big loser in the federal system and that its interests would be better served by independence.
“What’s the point of being in this country?” he asked. “We’re not in the right country.”
The federal money for Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) will be handed out in instalments over four years to support the Global 7000 and CSeries aircraft projects.
Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said the money will preserve thousands of high-paying technology jobs in Ontario where the Global will be assembled and in Quebec where it is completed and the CSeries is built.
“Two-thirds of the jobs are in Quebec,” Bains said Wednesday in Ottawa, adding that customization and research and development for the Global 7000 are done in Dorval, Que.
Those numbers have not been confirmed by the company.
But Lisee argued that most of the loans would go to the Global 7000 business aircraft program, thus benefiting Ontario to the detriment of Quebec.
Quebec injected US$1 billion into the CSeries in exchange for a 49.5 per cent stake in the program and had called on Ottawa to make a substantial investment.
The federal loan fell short of what Bombardier had been seeking since late 2015 — nearly three times that much to help its CSeries program, which was struck by delays and cost overruns prior to entering commercial service last year.
Francois Legault, leader of the Coalition for Quebec’s Future, said the federal response falls short of expectations and should prompt the Quebec government to review terms of its own deal with Bombardier.
“(Premier) Philippe Couillard has to renegotiate his agreement with Bombardier to reduce the risks assumed by all Quebecers,” Legault said.
Lisee also called it a failure on Couillard’s part to find a willing federal partner to spread the risk.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), he had his answer: he is alone in taking this risk,” Lisee said.
“Couillard’s aim was to get the federal government to share the risk and he failed. He failed. Why? Did he fail because it’s an impossible task in the federal political culture to help a Quebec company like Bombardier? It may be so.”
Couillard defended his government’s decision to invest in Bombardier as he was grilled in the national assembly about the federal aid.
“We’ve said it several times and we’ll say it again: aerospace is as important to Quebec as the automotive industry is to Ontario,” he said.
“Certainly, the help arrived later than we would have liked but I believe it might be the first of various interventions.
“It’s up to the federal government and the company to discuss that.”
The Canadian Press
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