Sound judgement flies out the door with federal government plans to sole-source Canada's next multi-mission aircraft

  • National Newswatch

How the Canadian government's about-face on a competitive process to replace our Aurora CP-140s will put Canada's aerospace sector in jeopardy.Despite ongoing calls from Canada's aerospace and defence industries for Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and Ministers Anand and Champagne to guarantee an open, competitive tender to replace the RCAF's Aurora CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft, the government's path forward seems increasingly clear: one company is the frontrunner, and for reasons that defy logic. Clearly, Canada has come under pressure from the United States to increase defence spending and, along with it, to procure American-made equipment. Although we have always been allies, Canada has never expected nor demanded that the American government prioritize Canadian products over their own.The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) raised concerns earlier this year on this issue and urged the government to reconsider their decision to sole-source a Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA) solution from a foreign company. Not for the sake of optics, but because of the implications for Canada's aerospace industry whose support among federal government circles is dwindling.At heart of this issue is the integrity of the procurement process. Any government procurement, and particularly one that involves public interest, ought to be fair, transparent and accessible. Yet, the federal government is yielding to pressure tactics from a US competitor who hopes to subvert Canada's competitive processes for its own benefit. The core pitch from the firm in question to Canada is that, if a sole-source contract is not granted in short-order, the production line for their model of aircraft will be permanently closed. Never mind that this aircraft is outdated and an end-of-line, inefficient, and far from environmentally friendly.Yet, these blatant pressure tactics seem to be working.Which is unfortunate, because if the government does sole-source CMMA to one company in lieu of a competitive tender, it would run against public interest, the government's mandate to transition into a green economy, and fiscal responsibility.Canada's domestic aerospace companies are rightfully frustrated; particularly those that provide a competitive product and who guarantee Canadian taxpayers value for money. The federal government's procurement approach here should concern all Canadians because when our own government gives precedence to foreign firms over domestic ones, and when those decisions impact the sustainability of our critical sectors, something is surely amiss.Granting a sole-source CMMA contract to an international company eliminates the opportunity for domestic firms who employ Canadians in well-paid, unionized jobs. This is irresponsible. Canadian competitors, like Bombardier, are a staple in the Canadian aerospace industry and have been for decades. Bombardier's aircraft has been purchased by other countries, many of whom are Canada's allies, because their aircraft meet the needs of modern air defence and are able to fly for longer, farther and faster while burning less fuel on a modern platform. Bombardier's aircraft would meet Canada's commitment to a green and sustainable economy.It is irrefutable that Bombardier's aircraft is next generation military technology, unlike the government's apparent preferred platform that is best suited for a military museum.Isn't it time that the Canadian government, if it's serious about boosting its defence capabilities, purchase equipment that meets needs of modern warfare? Shouldn't the government give consideration to domestic businesses who employ Canadians? Most perplexing of all, why is that the Canadian government is failing to grasp the message it sends to allies when it excludes domestic aircraft manufacturers from competing for Canadian air defence contracts in a favour of a foreign entity?The IAMAW urges the federal government to open the process to Canadian companies and ensure there is transparency, fairness and accessibility for this tender process. Our aerospace and defence industries depend on it—and so do Canadian workers.David Chartrand is the Canadian General Vice-President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).