Federal economic development minister says Bombardier aid request being studied

LONGUEUIL, Que. – The federal economic development minister says he is continuing to examine the request for financial aid from struggling aerospace giant Bombardier Inc.

“It’s really about making sure we go through the process and evaluate all the key factors,” Navdeep Bains said Thursday following an unrelated announcement.

“We understand the significance of the aerospace sector. We’ll keep that in mind and take a holistic approach. But we’re really going to look at it at the business case level.”

There is no set timetable, he added.

Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) CEO Alain Bellemare asked Ottawa for money late last year.

The request came as the Quebec government pledged $1.3 billion in October to help Bombardier complete the CSeries aircraft line in an effort to reassure potential customers.

At the time, Quebec Economy Minister Jacques Daoust said he expected Ottawa to also help Bombardier and match the Quebec government’s US$1-billion financial investment in the commercial aircraft that was certified by authorities ahead of entering into service in the coming months.

The Quebec government will own 49.5 per cent of a new joint company with Bombardier that would be solely responsible for the CSeries aircraft and give the province a say in the development of the aircraft. There is also a promise the company would keep headquarters, manufacturing and engineering facilities in the province for two decades.

The Quebec government defended its investment by saying the company is simply too important to dismiss, given the industry provides tax revenues and jobs that pay well.

The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, the provincial pension fund manager, is also investing US$1.5 billion for a 30 per cent stake in Bombardier’s railway division.

Neither the federal government nor the aerospace giant has indicated how much Bombardier wants from Ottawa, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he would need to see a solid business plan before injecting federal cash.

Bains says the federal government is well aware of the importance of the aerospace sector — $29 billion to the Canadian economy as well as 180,000 jobs, including about 40,000 centred in the Greater Montreal Area.

But Bains reiterated financial participation must be good for those footing the tab — Canadian taxpayers — and also generate economic growth.

“We’ll continue to look at the business case and continue to do our due diligence to make sure we come forward with a responsible decision that respects taxpayers,” he said.