(London) During the Farnborough International Air Show it was great to see Ministers Pierre Fitzgibbon and François-Philippe Champagne holding numerous industrial and strategic meetings. The two partners developed according to their own programme, but without going hand in hand, they shared a common vision for the development of this important economic sector for Quebec.
Posted at 6:30am
For three days, Secretary Fitzgibbon, constantly assisted by his Deputy Secretary, held about ten meetings a day with executives from major aerospace companies, contractors already based in Quebec and others we would like to see there.
“We had a good presence in Farnborough with the Investissement Québec team, the Ministry team and the people from the General Delegation in London who provided good logistics.
“We came here with three goals: to support our SMEs to increase their exports, to engage in discussions with major donors to increase their investments in Quebec and continue to drive growth, and finally to promote the electrification of transport,” Minister said Fitzgibbon told me on the sidelines of the show’s closing reception, organized by the Quebec delegation in London.
Five days earlier, on Saturday evening, Minister Fitzgibbon had insisted on the good working relationship between himself and his federal counterpart, François-Philip Champagne, at the welcome reception for the delegation of 35 Quebec companies led by Aéro Montréal in Farnborough.
And Minister Champagne retaliated by publicly praising the excellent cooperation between the two governments on their economic development strategy that same evening and at every subsequent opportunity.
Rarely in the last 20 years have we seen such alignment of views and goals between two commerce ministers from Ottawa and Quebec. We have long been accustomed to the use of tunnel strategies, with each level of government defining its priorities and the others ignoring or only very hesitantly embracing them.
“Like me, François-Philippe Champagne has a business background. He’s now pursuing a political career while I’m just passing through, but we speak the same language. We’ve done it in the development of the electric car ecosystem, we’re doing it in aviation,” underlines Pierre Fitzgibbon.
flowers and challenges
Minister Champagne apparently confirms this common interest.
“We have excellent cooperation, we have seen it in the automotive, aerospace and hydrogen sector development,” he said.
The message I personally carry to the CEOs of the multinationals I meet is that in aerospace we have the talent, we have the resources of tomorrow with green aluminum and steel, and we can help companies transform their supply chain to make it more environmentally friendly with our renewable energy.
François-Philippe Champagne, Federal Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry
The two ministers intend to multiply efforts for the development of new energies in Quebec that will power aircraft, in particular SAF (sustainable aviation fuels). “I’m becoming an expert in this field,” notes Pierre Fitzgibbon.
For his part, Minister Champagne recalled that aviation does not only concern Montreal. Two of the largest SMEs in Saint-Maurice – Champlain, Placeteco and Delatek – are active in this sector.
During his visit to Farnborough, François-Philippe Champagne was scheduled to meet with Lockheed Martin executives to discuss the economic implications of the deal to purchase the CF-35 fighter jets, a filing that is worrying Quebec aviation players.
The CAE company in Saint-Laurent, which is responsible for training F-18 pilots, runs the risk of not taking part in the CF-35 program because the multinational carries out the training for its own aircraft.
The federal government must ensure that the economic and industrial benefits of the Lockheed Martin program are distributed commensurately with the expertise and size of Canadian companies in this area.
“We are the best in the world and Canadian taxpayers’ money will pay for the maintenance and training costs of the CF-35 fleet. We need to get our fair share,” the CAE CEO told me.
Aware of this important issue, François-Philippe Champagne said he wanted Lockheed Martin executives to know that Canada intends to achieve significant economic benefits to match the investments being made by the federal government.
Minister Fitzgibbon also wants the negotiations with Lockheed Martin to result in acceptable terms for Quebec companies, but is not sitting at the discussion table.
There will always be issues where the expectations of one person do not necessarily correspond to the will of the other. But in the area of economic development, and particularly aviation, we are clearly trying to minimize these divisions.