Boeing aims PR offensive at Canada to underline economic importance

Boeing is seeking to remind Canada how much it contributes to the country's economy with a public relations offensive. The television, radio and online campaign coincides with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to Washington and his meeting Wednesday with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Campaign comes a week after U.S. Commerce Department proposes 300% duties on Bombardier jet

Boeing, whose Canadian operations include a technology division in Winnipeg, touts its $4-billion US annual contribution to the Canadian economy in a new public relations campaign. (Boeing)

Boeing is launching a public relations campaign over the airwaves and online just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits down with U.S. President Donald Trump to talk trade in Washington.

The U.S. aerospace giant embarked Tuesday on what it calls an "intensive multimedia campaign" to remind the Canadian public, as well as business and political leaders, of its contribution to Canada's economy.

The public relations offensive comes in the wake of recent proposals from the U.S. Department of Commerce to impose import duties of almost 300 per cent on Montreal-based Bombardier's CSeries jets, which Boeing alleges are highly subsided and being sold into the American market at cut-rate prices.

The Bombardier CS300 performs a demonstration flight during the Paris Air Show in 2015. The U.S. Department of Commerce has signalled its intent to impose import duties of 300 per cent on CSeries jets. (Francois Mori/Canadian Press)

Both Canada and Britain, which has a Bombardier plant in Northern Ireland, have threatened to retaliate by excluding the Chicago-based company from future defence contracts.

In its ad campaign, launched Tuesday, Boeing said it contributes $4 billion annually to the Canadian economy.

Boeing said it employs 2,000 people directly and buys equipment and services from 560 Canadian suppliers, with an additional 17,500 jobs supported through that supplier network.

Super Hornet threat

Part of the Liberal government's strategy to convince Boeing to back down has involved reminding U.S. lawmakers in Washington about the number of American jobs dependent on Bombardier.

Canada has threatened to cancel its planned sole-source purchase of 18 Super Hornet jet fighters, which are built at Boeing's military division in St. Louis.

At one point last month, Trudeau picked up the phone to talk with the governor of Missouri about the economic cost of pulling the plug on the proposal.

The Boeing-Bombardier spat is likely to be one of the issues raised when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Kim Westenskow, managing director of Boeing Canada, said in a release Tuesday her company represents 14 per cent of Canada's aerospace economic output.

"What we accomplish together benefits Canada and the entire global aerospace industry," she said. "It is a compelling story that is overdue to be told."

Trudeau lands in Washington tonight.

Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is the main topic of his visit, but the mood is glum, partly because of the Bombardier spat.

The prime minister will meet early Wednesday the powerful congressional ways and means committee on Capitol Hill.

A final decision on tariffs against Bombardier is expected early next year.


Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.