Manitoba

Brian Pallister increasingly frustrated with Justin Trudeau government

Premier Brian Pallister isn’t backing down from critical comments he directed at Ottawa earlier this week.

Manitoba premier adds high-tech factory to list of irritants in relationship with Ottawa

Premier Brian Pallister is standing by his comments that Ottawa's purchase of 18 Boeing Super Hornets is bad for Manitoba. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Premier Brian Pallister is quickly abandoning a play-nice posture with Ottawa as his list of issues with the federal government grows.

The Manitoba premier was joined by a number of representatives from Manitoba's aerospace industry Thursday when he pointed a big finger at the federal government over a program called the Factory of the Future.

In 2011 and again in 2015, Ottawa promised Winnipeg would be one of four locations in Canada for a research facility that would work closely with the private sector on the digitization of industrial processes.

Pallister said the three other locations — in Ontario and Quebec — are well on their way, but Manitoba's factory is nowhere near started.

The Manitoba premier said he's getting no answers from Ottawa, making him wonder if the $60-million facility and 80,000 square feet of research and manufacturing space is in limbo.

Under Prime Minister Steven Harper, the federal government had committed $10 million to each of the three eastern Canadian locations for upgrades to existing facilities, but Winnipeg was promised a purpose-built location.

Despite what Pallister said today, it does appear there has been some movement on the project in Winnipeg. In September the federal government awarded a contract to two Winnipeg firms for architectural and engineering work related to the Factory of the Future.

In a statement Thursday evening, a federal spokesperson said that the project in Winnipeg is moving ahead just as are facilities in Montreal, London and Ottawa.

"The National Research Council (NRC) has conducted extensive preparatory work and the required due diligence during the Factory of the Future's project definition phase," the statement said. "The NRC is now working closely with stakeholders to identify a suitable, serviced, location for the construction of the new Winnipeg facility, and the NRC continues to keep the province informed on the progress of this initiative."

The concern, said a spokesperson for the Manitoba PC government, is that a site hasn't yet been identified and little progress has been made since the facility was announced.

The Factory of the Future program provides research tools and design support to upgrade manufacturing facilities in Canada, in an attempt to make them more innovative and competitive.

"There has been no measurable response other than verbiage," Pallister told reporters Thursday.

'Real setback to Manitoba'

Pallister's comments came after a federal government decision this week on fighter jet contracts that Pallister said might leave Manitoba shut out. 

Now he's sprinkling his normally diplomatic language with the feds with words such as "not helpful," "not impressed,"  and "severe negative impact."

"We are more than hewers of wood and haulers of water here," Pallister said.

On Tuesday Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced the federal government is purchasing 18 Boeing Super Hornet jet fighters.

Premier Brian Pallister called the decision "a real setback to the province of Manitoba" and said he was very concerned.

Then on Wednesday, Sajjan responded to Pallister's criticism, telling the Winnipeg Free Press he was surprised by the comments and the decision to purchase the Super Hornets from Boeing would be good for Manitoba because the aerospace company has operations in Winnipeg.

Pallister refuses to budge on his deep concerns.

"I've made it eminently clear I don't agree with the decision," the premier said Thursday.

Pallister said while he is disappointed by the Hornets purchase, he hopes the Factory of the Future initiative has not been dropped.

"I can disagree with the federal minister and we can still come to points of agreement, I would hope, on other important issues," Pallister said. "We need the federal government to step up and demonstrate that it's going to keep its word,' he said.

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