Letter to Justin Trudeau: The survival of the aerospace sector compromised; you must act

Letter to Justin Trudeau: The survival of the aerospace sector compromised; you must act

Montreal June 15, 2020

To the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

I am writing to you today as a representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) to express my concern about the future of aerospace in Canada.

As elsewhere in the world, our aerospace ecosystem is not immune to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Many workers in this industry have lost their jobs, while others are worried about the future. When layoffs Were announced at Bombardier, we got a glimpse of the disaster that lies ahead if we let things get worse. Without concrete action, without a plan with a long-term vision, the very survival of our aerospace ecosystem is compromised. That’s why the IAMAW offers to work with you to develop an emergency plan that can ensure the survival of this industry and ensure its long-term viability.

A strong consensus on the issue

On several occasions over the past 20 years, The IAMAW has intervened with the various federal governments to advocate for an aerospace strategy. In 2019, our organization published two books, one for Canada and one for Quebec, in which we presented our recommendations. Our documents were in addition to the many recent research, reports and analyses that call on the federal government to recognize the strategic importance of the aerospace industry and provide the sector with a strong and structuring plan.

At the moment, there is consensus on the issue; the Quebec government, the Bloc Québécois, the New Democratic Party, The AIAC, Aero Montréal, as well as many other industry players are demanding from the federal government the implementation of a responsible aerospace strategy that serves our collective interests. So now is a good time for you to bring all these players together so that we can develop this strategy together.

Let’s take an example of what’s happening elsewhere

Almost all countries with a large aerospace ecosystem consider this industry to be highly strategic. To cope with the economic crisis that accompanies the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these countries have chosen to act to protect their aerospace sector.

In the United States, Senators Jerry Moran (Kansas) and Mark Warner (Virginia), co-chairs of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, proposed an emergency assistance plan to preserve jobs in the aerospace industry. The introduction of the bill is in addition to the $2 trillion U.S. economic assistance program passed in March.

For its part, France has presented a 15 billion Euro recovery plan to preserve the know-how, innovation capacity and technological progress of its aerospace industry. This plan, made up of short-, medium- and long-term measures, includes job protection measures, a fund to support SMEs, an acceleration of military orders, and support for export and research and development.

The Importance of Aerospace to Canada

You are surely aware that aerospace is a key sector of our economy and has been contributing to the quality of life of all Canadians for more than a century.

In 2018, Canadian aerospace had 160,000 direct jobs. The industry generated $31 billion in revenues and contributed more than $20 billion to the Canadian economy. Also in 2018, consumer spending by workers in the industry accounted for $5 billion of Gdp in Canada.

The impact of this industry is visible everywhere. State-of-the-art companies are present in our territory. From vocational training to higher education, we have schools in place to train the next generation and remain active in research and innovation. Failure to act quickly to help this industry would be like abandoning several important sectors of our society, and this is particularly the case for Quebec.

With 43,000 workers in about 200 companies, Quebec accounts for more than 50% of Canada’s aerospace sector. Quebec’s aerospace industry conducts more than 70% of research and development (R and D) across Canada. In 2019, the sector posted sales of $17.8 billion, ranking 6th in the world behind the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

A solid foundation for the future

In addition to providing a response to the current crisis, our plan will need to be part of a long-term industrial strategy, with a focus on strengthening our national economy, stimulating innovation, transitioning to a greener industry and economy, creating sustainable jobs and improving wealth redistribution.

To get through this difficult period, we need to put in place alternative ways of doing things to maintain as much as possible the level of jobs and activities in our aerospace ecosystem. For example, by implementing programs that will enable businesses to modernize their infrastructure, develop new products, improve productivity, and improve workers’ knowledge. These programs will need to contain a number of safeguards and measures that will enable society as a whole to benefit from the fruits of our efforts.

To build a strong plan, we believe it is essential to build on the following principles:

  • To promote the creation and maintenance of jobs through programs that structure and ensure a positive impact on society as a whole.
  • To enable greater coherence and synergy between our national investment policies and our public policies, including social and environmental policies.
  • Create tools to anticipate and adapt to crises and changes.
  • Put our collective interests at the top of the list of priorities.
  • Promote direct involvement of governments and workers’ representatives in aerospace industry decisions.

In closing, I again invite you to seriously consider the idea of bringing all the players in this industry together so that we can build an aerospace strategy that meets the challenges that lie ahead. Please be aware that we are ready to engage in discussions on this matter with you and the various representatives of your government as soon as possible.

Please accept, Mr. Prime Minister, the expression of my very high regard.

David Chartrand
Quebec Coordinator, IAMAW Canada and FTQ Vice-President

Stan Pickthall
General Vice-President, IAMAW Canada

CC Minister of Transportation, Honourable Marc Garneau (Wesmount)
CC Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Honourable Navdeep Bains (Mississauga—Malton)
CC Minister of Labour, Honourable Filomena Tassi (Hamilton-West—Ancaster—Dundas)
CC Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Honourable Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier)