Manitoba premier, Winnipeg mayor want 'cooler heads' in Boeing Bombardier spat

WINNIPEG _ Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is calling for more cooler heads and less overheated rhetoric in the burgeoning aerospace trade war centred around Boeing and Bombardier.

It was a plea that was immediately rebuffed by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard who has said “not a bolt, not a part, of course not a plane of Boeing” should enter Canada until the conflict is resolved.

“I will not tone down. I will tone up if I need to do it,” Couillard said Thursday at Bombardier’s assembly plant in Mirabel, north of Montreal. “I will fight for Quebec.”

The Quebec premier has called on Ottawa to take a hard line against Boeing after the U.S. Department of Commerce proposed a hefty 219 per cent duty on jets manufactured by rival Bombardier.

The department’s preliminary findings say Bombardier benefited from improper government subsidies, giving it an unfair advantage when selling its C-Series jets south of the border.

“It’s an unacceptable attack towards an industry, a province and a country and we shall prevail,” Couillard said.

Earlier in the day, Pallister said Couillard’s emotional call for a Boeing boycott is understandable, but not helpful.

“That overheated rhetoric and emotional language, though understandable because of the concerns the premier has …. is not necessarily as helpful as cooler heads and a demonstration of an understanding that our trade is a very important mutual benefit to Canadian and US economies,” Pallister said Thursday after an announcement in Morden, Man.

“I would always be one who promotes open trade and encourage all to remember that there are mutual benefits in our relationships.”

The Manitoba capital is home to a Boeing manufacturing facility that employs 1,400 people and is the third biggest aerospace centre in the country.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman called Couillard’s comments unhelpful.

“His comments do not appear to acknowledge the reality that Quebec is not the only province affected by this dispute,” Bowman said in a statement Thursday.

“While I respect that the premier of Quebec is going to stand up for jobs in Quebec, his comments are an oversimplification of the dispute and are not helpful for the Canadian aerospace sector as a whole.”

This dispute goes beyond a region of the country, he said.

“Cooler heads need to prevail so we can continue to collectively find ways to grow this sector, not obstruct it.”

Couillard argues the US$1 billion invested by the province in Bombardier’s C-Series program was not a subsidy and Bombardier is being targeted by its larger aerospace rival even though Boeing has also benefited from decades of government assistance.

Unifor president Jerry Dias, who represents Boeing workers, said both Bombardier and Boeing receive government support. This trade dispute threatens the ability of government to support the industry, Dias said.

“Boeing is playing a very dangerous game, not just for Bombardier but for themselves,” he said. “This whole thing is poisoning the well water.

“If we don’t fight this now, the fallout can be just brutal.”

But Pallister said the Canadian and American economies are so intertwined, he’s confident the two countries will weather the storm.

“We have the strongest international co-operative relationship of any two countries in the world,” he said. “We will get through this.”

_ By Chinta Puxley in Edmonton, with files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg and Ross Marowits in Montreal