Toronto—The largest private-sector union in Canada is warning that without renewed federal government leadership the country’s aerospace industry is heading for “a vastly diminished role” in the global market.
The Canadian Auto Workers’ (CAW) released a submission to the Aerospace Review warning Canada’s aerospace industry is an example of the wisdom of pro-active industrial policy efforts by government, but its future remains uncertain.
Canada has lost 13,000 aerospace manufacturing jobs in the last decade, according to the CAW, and the nation’s international trade performance has deteriorated in the industry.
The union alleges that, as recently as 2003, Canada had a $4.9-billion aerospace trade surplus, but by 2011 that number had plummeted by 60 per cent.
“This technology-intensive, export-oriented industry makes a unique contribution to a better role for Canada in the world economy,” said CAW president Ken Lewenza in the submission to the federal government’s Aerospace Review. “We can’t take this sector for granted.”
According to the report, with other leading aerospace manufacturing jurisdictions—including the European Union, Japan and Brazil—continuing to strengthen investments in the industry, Canada needs to do more.
The global commercial aerospace industry is expected to show strong growth in the decades ahead, but Canada needs to take action now to ensure it remains part of this growth, says the CAW’s Pulling Out of a Stall: Plotting a Renewed Course for Canada’s Aerospace Industry.
“This is a long-term business and we need to act now to make sure Canada stays in the game and that we continue to create high-tech, good jobs,” CAW aerospace director Dawn Cartwright said in a statement.
The 10-page submission highlights six areas for strengthening government involvement in aerospace manufacturing, including:
- Maximizing Canadian content, spin-off benefits and production offsets arising from procurement of military and civilian aircraft;
- Using government research and development and investment support to ensure that key product development programs and production are undertaken in Canada; and
- Addressing Canada’s trade imbalance by demanding reciprocity in foreign trade.
Other recommendations outlined in the submission include enhancing skills development in the aerospace sector and the establishment of a sustained aerospace development council.
The submission was released the same day the Quebec government announced $15-million in funding for aerospace manufacturer Aerolia—a subsidiary of EADS—to establish its first manufacturing facility in La Belle Province.