WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister called for assurances from the federal government Tuesday that the province’s aerospace sector will not be hurt by changes at Air Canada and in defence contracting.
Pallister said a bill now before Parliament — an amendment to the law governing Air Canada — would weaken the requirement for Air Canada (TSX:ACE.B) to maintain maintenance jobs in Manitoba.
The bill would maintain a requirement that work be done in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, but would give Air Canada more flexibility to move work from one province to another.
Pallister said if work is moved out of Manitoba, he would like to see compensation in the form of job training or other investments in the province’s aerospace sector.
“Any changes to the Air Canadian Participation Act must provide a new benefit to Manitoba,” he said.
Pallister also raised concerns about media reports that say the federal government is eyeing Boeing’s F/A -18 Super Hornet as a replacement for Canada’s aging fleet of fighter jets.
The federal Liberals promised last year to stop the former Conservative government’s purchase of Lockheed-Martin F-35s, but also vowed that any replacement would be chosen through open contract bidding.
“We are particularly concerned that the Super Hornet decision might be made, at minimum, the implementation of a fair, open and transparent tendering process,” Pallister said.
Pallister was joined Tuesday by business leaders who said Manitoba companies have already spent money preparing for work on the F-35s.
“Cancellation of defence projects in the past have had a significant and damaging impact on the industry, both in terms of lost investment and eliminated jobs,” Don Leitch, president of the Business Council of Manitoba, said in a written statement.
Pallister said he discussed the issue when he met briefly last week with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but did not divulge details.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told the Commons last week that no decision had been made, but the current fighter-jet fleet must be replaced soon.