Satisfaction, disappointment greet Bombardier decision to sell A220 shares

A union representative called Bombardier’s sale of its remaining shares in the A220 commercial jet program — formerly known as the C Series — “the best-case scenario,” while an aerospace expert said it’s a “sad” day for Quebec. 

The company announced the move late Wednesday night, and politicians and stakeholders weighed in on Thursday.

Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon says the sale will mean more production and more jobs for the province. 

“Our business is to make sure we create good jobs,” Fitzgibbon said, saying that he still sees potential in Bombardier’s contribution to Quebec’s economy. 

“I’m convinced the engineering of Bombardier … will contribute to economic growth in Quebec.” 

David Chartrand, the representative for Quebec’s division of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, says he’s satisfied Airbus and its subsidiary Stelia intend to keep jobs in Quebec. 

The deal calls for the jobs of 360 people who construct the plane’s cockpits at the plant in the Montreal borough of Ville St-Laurent to be guaranteed for three years. After that, they will be transferred to Mirabel. 

Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon says the sale will mean more production and more jobs. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

“Priority number one, absolutely, was to keep those jobs here in Quebec and make sure … our members continue to benefit from those jobs,” Chartrand said. 

He said he’s confident the jobs are safe as long as Airbus continues to sell airplanes, and that Airbus and Stelia assured him the union’s collective agreement will remain in place. 

Deal secures 3,300 Quebec jobs, Airbus says

Bombardier has been reorganizing its business to try and pay off a multibillion-dollar deficit. 

The union is in discussions to ensure the same work conditions for the more than 360 workers at the plant in Ville St-Laurent, Chartrand says. 

Airbus says the deal secures 3,300 jobs in Quebec. 

Under the deal, Airbus will hold a 75 per cent stake in the commercial jet program. The Quebec government will have 25 per cent. 

Quebec Premier François Legault said he’s satisfied they were able to reach this agreement. 

Bombardier released its latest financial statement Thursday. The company incurred losses of $1.6 billion US, or close to $2.3 billion Cdn, in the last quarter. 

‘We’re not putting in any more money’: Quebec premier

Legault criticized the former Liberal government’s $1.3 billion investment in the C Series in 2016. Sales of the planes were initially slow, leading Bombardier to sell a controlling stake of the program to Airbus in 2018 for $1.

While A220 orders have since started rolling in, Bombardier would need to inject more money into the program to ramp up production. 

“It’s the old government that made a bad financial transaction to put $1.3 billion of our money not into the Bombardier group, but only in one division of it,” Legault said at the National Assembly Thursday. 

“We’re not putting in any more money.” 

Pierre Arcand, interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, said his government invested in the C Series to protect tens of thousands of jobs in the Montreal area. 

“We see the sales of those planes are increasing. We’ll see in the future what is the value of that 25 per cent,” Arcand said, adding that Legault’s challenge will be to ensure the jobs remain in the province. 

Isabelle Dostaler, dean of the faculty of business administration at Memorial University of Newfoundland whose research focuses on aerospace and aviation management, said it’s a sad day for Quebec. 

“To think that our country developed the most advanced civil aircraft and that we’re not able to sell it ourselves, it’s really really, really sad,” Dostaler told CBC Daybreak‘s Mike Finnerty. 

She said if she were the premier, she wouldn’t diminish the province’s participation in the A220 program. 

“I think whoever owns that aircraft, and that’s now going to be Airbus, they’re going to make a lot of money.”

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