Montreal

Philippe Couillard defends Bombardier bailout, angering public sector strikers

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard is defending a decision to provide a $1.32-billion bailout to Bombardier as striking public sector workers question the provincial government's priorities.

Striking teachers say money should be going to education instead

Cara Herring and Kirsty Herring were among the youngest pickets outside Westmount High School. (Thomas Daigle/CBC)

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard is defending a decision to provide a $1.32-billion bailout to Bombardier as striking public sector workers question his government's priorities.

The province said Thursday it is investing the money into the Montreal-based company's CSeries jet, which is about two years behind schedule.

Bombardier, which posted a $6.46-billion loss for the third quarter, is crucial to the provincial economy, Couillard said. Bombardier is one of Quebec's largest employers, with roughly 15,000 workers in the province — about a fifth of its global workforce.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard defended his government's decision to help Bombardier in the National Assembly. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
"It's an investment. It gives us assurances that the headquarters will stay for 20 years in Montreal," he said.

"The aeronautics industry in Quebec, for Montreal, is just as important as the automobile industry in Ontario. There were a lot of efforts when the automobile industry sector was struggling, and it's totally reasonable that the state would help in a sector just as important in Quebec."

After the deal with the government of Quebec, Bombardier will own 50.5 per cent of a new joint venture, with 49.5 per cent belonging to the province. The provincial government has committed to the project for at least 20 years.

Economy Minister Jacques Daoust said Quebec's aerospace industry pays salaries that are double the provincial average and the province's investment will directly support up to 2,500 CSeries jobs.

The province will be borrowing money to make the investment in Bombardier, Couillard said.

Economy Minister Jacques Daoust said the province's aeronautics industry is the crown jewel in Quebec's economy and he couldn't let the company fail.

Upon learning of the agreement, a group of striking teachers gathered outside Bombardier's office in Montreal Thursday morning, chanting "$1 billion for our schools!"

James Dufault, who teaches at Royal West Academy in Montreal West, said the province's decision to invest in struggling Bombardier shows that its priorities are supporting businesses rather than Quebec children.

"The timing is kind of priceless, right?" he said.

Catherine Goudreau, another school teacher, agrees.

"The government is always out to bail out the private industry, but there's never any money for the public sector."

Opposition slams move

The deal dominated question period at Quebec's National Assembly, with opposition leaders attacking the premier over the deal.

Parti Québécois Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau and Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader François Legault contended the government isn't investing taxpayer money in the right way.

"The government is a poor negotiator," said Péladeau, who argued the province should invest in Bombardier's parent company, not the CSeries subsidiary.

The premier, in turn, criticized Péladeau and Legault, saying they demonstrated a "lack of confidence toward Bombardier and the aerospace industry in Montreal."

Daoust said the deal with Bombardier would help grow the province's economy and, ultimately, "help pay for services" in sectors like education.

With files from The Canadian Press

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