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Aerospace industry support can’t be hurt by deficits

Dec. 8, 2009, Montreal – Financial support for Canada's aerospace industry can't be compromised by government efforts to trim their mounting budget deficits, the chairman of aerospace think-tank Aero Montreal says.


December 8, 2009
By Ross Marowits | The Canadian Press

Dec. 8, 2009, Montreal – Financial support for Canada's aerospace industry can't be compromised by government efforts to trim their mounting budget deficits, the chairman of aerospace think-tank Aero Montreal says.

"It's not by accident that the industry working together with the government as a partner has created this unique aerospace industry in Canada that's the envy of the world," Marc Parent said Monday.

The president and chief executive of simulator firm CAE Inc. said Montreal has grown to become among the leading aerospace clusters in the world through corporate investments in innovation and training that have been supported by the federal and Quebec governments.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and his Quebec counterpart have vowed to trim their deficits in the coming years.

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But despite the tough decisions facing government, it's much easier to sustain a great industry than to have to create one, Parent told reporters at a two-day aerospace conference.

"All I know is that to make sure that we continue to prosper in the future, government (federal and provincial) has its place as partners with industry to grow this," said Parent, who was not aware of any specific funding moves.

The Montreal region is host to about 40,000 aerospace workers at 235 companies that have $12 billion in annual sales. About 80 per cent of the products are exported.

Quebec Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac said the province will continue to support the industry as it invests in new products that will help it thrive during an eventual economic recovery.

While aerospace layoffs are unfortunate, they are the temporary result of an economic downturn, he said.

Gignac said he's confident that around 4,000 jobs lost over the past year in the province's aerospace sector will return in the coming three to five years.

The key for manufacturers like Bombardier Inc., is to invest in innovation to design new products that will allow it to take advantage of an eventual economic recovery.

"We have confidence in the aerospace industry and our financial support for Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney Canada are helpful," he said during a news conference.

Both levels of government have ponied up hundreds of millions in loans to Bombardier to help it develop its new CSeries aircraft set to be delivered in 2013.

They have also helped to attract and train workers.

The federal and Quebec governments announced Monday a $12 million grant for the aerospace technology centre at Montreal's Edouard-Montpetit College. The funding will be used to construct a new building and provide training to 1,200 aerospace students.

Montreal's cluster of manufacturers and suppliers within a 30 kilometre radius of the city also helps to attract new companies.

Gignac said he's hopeful that negotiations underway will succeed in attracting Dornier Seaplane to set up an assembly facility for its Seastar amphibious plane in nearby St-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

The plant could create 150 to 200 jobs.

Dornier CEO Joe Walker said the company is on track to announce its choice between Quebec and North Bay, Ont., by mid-January.

Walker wouldn't disclose what he is seeking from government. Published reports said the company wants $60 million in loans and subsidies.