With Delta deal signed, Ottawa must go all in on CSeries: Quebec political class

The Trudeau government congratulated Bombardier for its CSeries deal with Delta Air Lines on Thursday but stopped short again of committing federal money for the Montreal-based conglomerate.

Quebec has promised US$1 billion of public money for the aircraft manufacturer and the company is seeking a similar sum from Ottawa.

Federal Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains congratulated Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) on the US$5.6-billion deal, calling it great news for the company and the Canadian aerospace industry.

In a statement, Bains said discussions about federal aid are ongoing.

“We are continuing our dialogue with Bombardier,” he said. “We remain committed to working with Bombardier and the sector as a whole to keep Canada at the forefront of global leadership.”

In Ottawa, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau refused to speculate on the status of active negotiations between the two parties.

“Minister Bains is leading those discussions and I know that he is actively discussing with Bombardier their request that came from last December,” he said.

Their respective comments came shortly after Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the pressure was mounting on Ottawa to provide financial assistance for Bombardier’s CSeries planes after the announcement that Delta had placed an order with the company for 75 CS100 aircraft with options for an additional 50 planes.

Couillard reiterated that Quebec’s aerospace industry is as important as the automobile sector in Ontario and said aerospace is currently the most innovative sector in the Canadian economy.

“Governments invested billions of dollars — and lost billions of dollars — with the support of the automobile sector in Ontario,” Couillard said in Quebec City.

“So it would not be understandable that the federal government would not be very actively present in this innovative sector — the most important innovation project in Canada today is the CSeries plane and we should all be proud of that.”

He called it “paradoxical” that Ottawa hasn’t hesitated to help Ontario with billions in public funds while seemingly dragging its feet with respect to Quebec’s key sector.

The governments of Quebec and Ontario, both provinces where Bombardier has an extensive presence, have urged Ottawa to provide financial assistance.

Couillard noted that government involvement in the CSeries must be strategic.

“We don’t want to become makers of airplanes but we want to support innovation,” he said. “Governments in a situation like this should not behave like investors or bankers, but economic agents.”

The premier said he’s not worried about Bombardier’s financial situation, noting the CSeries order book is filled until 2020 with the first commercial flight scheduled for July in Europe.

Federal money would give Bombardier flexibility for the future development of the program, Couillard said.

PQ Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau, meanwhile, called on Ottawa to invest in the aerospace sector as a whole, including Bombardier, saying the CSeries needs a capital base to really “take off” and that the cash infusion must come from the federal government.

Diane Finley, the Conservative critic for innovation, science and economic development, said her party was “thrilled” about the purchase order.

“With the Liberals placing more and more debt on hard-working Canadians, it’s encouraging to see that there are private-sector solutions available to help Bombardier succeed and grow the CSeries program,” Finley said in a statement.