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March 13, 2018

Lisée turns his back on aerospace workers

La C Series de Bombardier, c'est 2 000 emplois au Québec ;Bombardier Aéronautique, c’est 14 000 emplois au Québec ;L’ensemble du secteur aérospatial, c’est 40 000 emplois au Québec.

Posted by Parti libéral du Québec on Thursday, October 19, 2017

To the Leader of the Opposition,

I read your open letter with interest last week, and I would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments and corrections. I see that you are opposed to the development of the C Series, to the maintenance of activities at Mirabel—which represents more than 2,000 well-paid jobs until 2041—to the C Series headquarters in Montréal, to the 40,000 aerospace workers who depend on the C Series, and to the growth of our collective investment in the best airplane in its category.

Let me start by taking a step back. In October 2015, Bombardier needed not only a major investment, but also a clear sign that would restore market confidence in the C Series. The Government of Quebec’s investment helped reinforce all of the company’s activities and appeared to reassure the market concerning the viability of the program. More importantly, this gesture helped land two important orders from Air Canada and Delta. Without this strategic investment—to which you and Mr. Legault were opposed—there would be no more C Series, probably no more Bombardier, and thousands of direct and indirect jobs in a sector that is vital to our economy would have been lost.

For months, we were the only ones defending our aerospace workers, while you and Mr. Legault were essentially the allies of those who wanted to see this impressive competitor disappear.

We’ve been clear from the start: the completion of the program of total investments would require some $3 billion, and the Government of Quebec had done its part. It was thus necessary to find a third partner and, in the meantime, Bombardier would continue to invest. The commercial airplane market is difficult to penetrate alone or with only a single financial partner. Without a strategic partner, the longevity of the C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership was in jeopardy.

In April 2017, Boeing filed a complaint with the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) and the International Trade Commission (ITC) requesting the imposition of countervailing duties and antidumping duties on the C Series planes sold in the United States. This complaint generated further market uncertainty around the future of the C Series. The preliminary determination of duties in the order of 300% was another blow to the program, closing off access to the American market for all intents and purposes.

Last October, more than 18 months had gone by without a significant order for the C Series. The arrival of a strategic partner was therefore essential for the program to continue. In this context, the partnership announced with Airbus was (and still is) the only viable solution to ensure the future of the 2,000 jobs related to the C Series, guarantee the longevity of the program and consolidate not only the activities of Bombardier Aerospace, but also those of the entire aerospace cluster in Quebec. For a second time, our government single-handedly saved thousands of high-quality jobs, despite the opposition’s lack of support for the workers in question and their families.

Airbus provided C Series with all the weight of its brand and its sales force. It reassured potential buyers, and new orders have since appeared. By combining the most innovative, high-performance airplanes, created and developed by Quebec engineers, with the weight and credibility of Airbus, we generated new momentum. By allying Bombardier with Boeing’s greatest competitor, a whole new dynamic took hold of this market segment that should represent a volume of nearly 6,000 airplanes in the next twenty years.

For workers at Bombardier and in the industry, and for all the Quebecers who supported the company and the program, we have done everything to ensure the success of the C Series. We took this decision with the goal of ensuring the growth of this industry in Quebec and of our collective investment.

With this partnership, we have extended the length of the continuity agreement by five years, i.e. until 2041, thus safeguarding the future of the 2,000 jobs at the factory in Mirabel, and maintaining the limited partnership’s headquarters in Montréal. By doing so, we consolidated the aerospace cluster, which today counts 40,000 jobs.

Quebec has thus become Airbus’s biggest hub of development outside Europe, and Quebec suppliers will be able to benefit not only from increased sales volume for the C Series, but also from growth opportunities from the access to Airbus’s supply chain that has been facilitated. The companies that accompanied me to Toulouse were able to see the huge potential that this represents. They know very well that without our two interventions, this potential would simply not exist.

The American assembly line in Mobile, Alabama will only supply the US market, while the main assembly line will remain in Mirabel. We expect that this production will increase to roughly a hundred airplanes per year. Moreover, if an additional line becomes necessary, Mirabel will have priority for its installation.

You falsely imply, Mr. Lisée, that all the airplanes ordered by Delta will be built in Alabama; but this is not the case. The production of aircraft for Delta will begin in 2018 in Mirabel… in Quebec! This was confirmed by Alain Bellemare a few weeks ago.

However, we should not disregard the fact that the International Trade Commission’s decision, which takes Bombardier’s side in the Boeing complaint, only concerns Delta’s order. It does not protect us against similar complaints when other orders come in from the American market.

In this context, I will quote David Chartrand, Quebec coordinator of the International Association of Machinists (IAM), who wrote in his blog on Huffington Post Québec on February 5 that: “[…] requiring Bombardier and Airbus to renounce the assembly line in Mobile, Alabama would expose us to the risk of reliving last year, but with the possibility of a less happy ending […]. This situation is frustrating and difficult to accept, but at the present time, it would be hypocritical, irresponsible and opportunistic to say the contrary.” [translation]

Have you bothered to ask the workers what they want, how they experienced this stressful period when their livelihoods were threatened? I went to meet them. I don’t think they’ve seen you on the floor of their factory. On several occasions, I went to Mirabel to speak with the workers, to listen to them and to reassure them that the Government of Quebec would NEVER let them down. These workers and their families know very well who supported them through adversity. They also know, Mr. Lisée, who did not.

Philippe Couillard
MNA for Roberval
Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party
Premier of all Quebecers