LILLEY: Air force favouring American plane over Canadian aircraft puzzling

Get the latest from Brian Lilley straight to your inbox

Article content

Jobs at a Toronto-area airplane manufacturing plant are being put at risk by the military’s decision to award a sole-source contract to American-based Boeing. At a time when the Trudeau government is offering major financial incentives to land new manufacturing facilities in Canada, it’s perplexing that they are looking to exclude a Canadian firm from even competing.

Advertisement 2

Article content

In February, Public Services and Procurement Canada issued a request for information to replace Canada’s CP-140 Aurora, a plane first purchased in the 1980s as a marine patrol aircraft. The government said they wanted the Royal Canadian Airforce to be outfitted with what they called a Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft or CMMA.

Article content

On March 27, a statement was issued which said, “the government has determined that the P-8A Poseidon is the only currently available aircraft that meets all of the CMMA operational requirements.” The statement also said that the Canadian government had a letter to the American government asking for permission to buy the Boeing-built aircraft.

The government maintains that this letter doesn’t commit them to buying the P-8A Poseiden, an aircraft built on the 737 platform, but they are clearly moving in that direction.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Recommended video

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Enter Bombardier, the Montreal-based firm known for a host of products from snowmobiles to Sea-Doos to trains that they no longer make. Bombardier, once known as much for taking government grants as anything else, is now purely an aviation company making a range of jets for corporate and military clients.

What the company is looking for now is a fair shot bidding on the replacement for the Auroras.

The Global 6500 is a plane manufactured in the Toronto area — currently at Downsview in North Toronto but soon at a new facility in Mississauga. The plant already employs 2,000 workers at their own facility and provides jobs at their many Canadian suppliers.

This is a plane already in use by the British, German and American air forces. The Americans use the planes for their Battlefield Airborne Communication Node and have dubbed them the E11-A aircraft, but at this point, Bombardier can’t get the Canadian government to let them bid.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Late last week, in an attempt to get the government’s attention, the company launched a campaign showcasing their product and their partnership with Ottawa-based General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada. That’s the company which just completed an expensive refurbishment of the computer systems for the Auroras to keep them operational through 2030.

The pitch from Bombardier is simple – their planes are smaller, use less fuel, can fly farther, land on shorter runways, cost less and are made in Canada using Canadian-made parts. How the Trudeau government doesn’t hear Bombardier out, let alone buy their planes over Boeing’s, is a mystery.

Doesn’t the Trudeau government say climate change is a major concern? If so, why exclude a plane with a lower carbon footprint?

Advertisement 5

Article content

Bombardier has the support of many MPs across party lines — including from Liberal MPs in the GTA who realize the potential for jobs — but they don’t have the backing of the Trudeau government at this point.

That could change in coming days, if the Liberals are smart.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, a regional player in the Liberal Party and now candidate to for the leadership of the provincial party, is a booster of the company. Unifor, the largest private sector union in the country, represents the workers at the plant and has been known to throw its weight around politically when it feels slighted.

Finally, the company is seeking, and will likely get, the support of the Ford government in Ontario for their bid.

It simply doesn’t make sense to exclude Bombardier, their partner General Dynamics, or the thousands of workers these Canadian companies represent.

The Trudeau government should at least let Bombardier bid on the project.


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Join the Conversation

Advertisement 1

Leave a Comment