LRT DELAYS AND BOMBARDIER’S WOEFUL RECORD
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.