The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

YET AN­OTHER ROUND OF de­lays for Water­loo Re­gion’s LRT scheme has Bom­bardier back in the spot­light. As usual, it’s un­flat­ter­ing.

The com­pany has im­posed mas­sive de­lays on tran­sit schemes well be­yond the re­gion, which is pig­gy­back­ing on Toronto’s (Metrolinx) much larger or­der – 182 cars ver­sus 14 slated for here. Metrolinx ear­lier this year started look­ing else­where for cars, so ram­pant have been the de­lays and prob­lems with those al­ready de­liv­ered.

It’s a wor­ri­some trend that the com­pany can’t meet schedules and qual­ity tar­gets for its largest cus­tomers, so things won’t get bet­ter for the re­gion. In fact, there are now prob­lems with the one car de­liv­ered in the form of soft­ware is­sues. Grand River Tran­sit has no idea when it will be work­ing and when/if the oth­ers will fol­low.

The ill-con­sid­ered LRT project aside – and it’s a big aside – the de­lays are par­tic­u­larly galling given Bom­bardier’s long his­tory as one of the coun­try’s largest cor­po­rate wel­fare bums. Gov­ern­ments, fed­eral and pro­vin­cial, have poured bil­lions into the com­pany in the form of grants, sub­si­dies and “loans” (if you don’t have to pay it back, it’s not a loan), yet Bom­bardier con­tin­ues to strug­gle even with or­ders in hand. And it still has its other hand out for hand­outs.

The com­pany’s most suc­cess­ful at suck­ing in tax­payer money.

Not, of course, that it’s alone in that re­gard. Com­pany’s large and small suckle at the pub­lic teat. Some es­ti­mates put the na­tional cor­po­rate wel­fare bill at some $16 bil­lion a year, or al­most dou­ble the cost of so­cial wel­fare costs. And with­out any doc­u­mentable ben­e­fits.

Canada’s his­tory of cor­po­rate wel­fare is re­plete with un­paid loans, bank­rupt­cies, un­de­liv­ered jobs and shut­tered fac­to­ries de­spite as­sur­ances to the con­trary. For a sad ex­am­ple of all of the above, check out On­tario’s steel in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly what hap­pened in Hamil­ton. The au­to­mo­tive sec­tor, too, has seen plants close and jobs dis­ap­pear even as gov­ern­ments have poured in bil­lions of dol­lars.

The money handed out by politi­cians in­ter­ested in buy­ing cor­po­rate do­na­tions and votes in tar­geted ridings never comes with guar­an­tees for long-term em­ploy­ment, in­vest­ment and even­tual full re­turn to tax cof­fers. In­stead, we see just one gimme after an­other in the nev­erend­ing cy­cle of pri­va­tized prof­its and so­cial­ized costs, the real modus operandi of cor­po­rate wel­fare.

Broader re­search tells us any ben­e­fits of cor­po­rate wel­fare are, at best, fleet­ing and rarely suc­cess­ful in at­tract­ing high-skilled, high-pay­ing jobs. The money dis­ap­pears down a sink­hole, with lit­tle lasting ef­fect. But as long as politi­cians are al­lowed to con­trol the money, they’ll keep on wast­ing it to ben­e­fit only them­selves and a few well­heeled friends.

In that light, it makes sense to scrap all sub­si­dies to busi­ness. That’s not go­ing to hap­pen, how­ever, as such pro­grams are an­other vote-buy­ing scheme for politi­cians. Po­lit­i­cal life is a perpetual elec­tion cy­cle, and the one thing politi­cians rel­ish is the dol­ing out money – grants, loans, sub­si­dies – and the photo ops that ac­com­pany such an­nounce­ments.

Po­lit­i­cal gain and an ea­ger­ness to chan­nel pub­lic money into pri­vate hands aside – and that’s a big cul­tural change to re­verse, as milk­ing tax­pay­ers is the norm – end­ing cor­po­rate wel­fare wouldn’t be that dif­fi­cult.

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