Dur­ing NAFTA talks, re­mem­ber the Ar­row Bom­bardier’s C Se­ries pas­sen­ger jet must be pro­tected from U.S. in­dus­trial in­ter­ests

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AZIZ GUER­GACHI

His­tory holds many lessons for those of us who care to re­mem­ber. It shows us the out­come of de­ci­sions and the un­in­tended con­se­quences they gen­er­ate. So it is fit­ting that we pause, re­flect on the ac­tions of past gov­ern­ments and en­sure that pre­vi­ous mis­takes are not re­peated to­day.

As the coun­try pre­pares to em­bark on what’s sure to be con­tentious ne­go­ti­a­tions over NAFTA with our neigh­bours to the south, it will be crit­i­cal for the Trudeau gov­ern­ment to con­tinue to stand tall and de­fend the in­ter­ests of Cana­dian in­dus­try with pas­sion and con­vic­tion.

As if to re­mind our­selves of how vi­tal it is to sup­port Cana­dian man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­cel­lence, me­dia out­lets re­ported re­cently on at­tempts to re­cover scale pro­to­types from Lake On­tario of the Cana­dian aero­space in­dus­try’s great­est his­tor­i­cal achieve­ment, the Avro Ar­row. The fighter jet was a mag­nif­i­cent achieve­ment of en­gi­neer­ing, in­ge­nu­ity and per­for­mance that was cast away — a story of op­por­tu­nity lost and po­ten­tial un­re­al­ized.

The demise of the Ar­row in 1959 led to the near col­lapse of Canada’s aero­space in­dus­try: tens of thou­sands of Cana­dian jobs were lost and the flood gates for an un­prece­dented brain drain of tal­ented Cana­dian aero­space engi­neers and man­u­fac­tur­ers to the United States were opened.

The Ar­row was no or­di­nary plane. It rep­re­sented the pin­na­cle of Cana­dian aero­space and tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ment in its day, push­ing the phys­i­cal lim­its of what was deemed pos­si­ble by engi­neers across the world. But, the Ar­row’s mo­ment in the sun turned swiftly dark as the John Diefen­baker gov­ern­ment caved to op­er­a­tional in­te­gra­tion with Amer­i­can de­fence in­ter­ests, opt­ing for U.S. man­u­fac­tured mis­siles over Cana­dian built fight­ers.

The wrong de­ci­sion about a sin­gle air­craft pro­gram had mas­sive ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the Cana­dian in­dus­try and would haunt the legacy of the prairie lawyer turned prime min­is­ter. For many Cana­di­ans, the death of the Ar­row was un­for­giv­able.

Fast for­ward to to­day. What does that ex­pe­ri­ence teach us? Ap­par­ently, a lot.

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment has moved swiftly and de­cid­edly to de­fend Cana­dian in­ter­ests and Cana­dian in­no­va­tion against lu­di­crous U.S. Trade Law chal­lenges against Bom­bardier’s C Se­ries pro­gram by Boe­ing.

Like the Ar­row, the C Se­ries is rein­vent­ing a cat­e­gory, and redefining sin­gle-aisle jet travel through tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions in fuel ef­fi­ciency, noise re­duc­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print, and cabin com­fort. Canada has de­vel­oped its pas­sen­ger jet of the fu­ture. And like the Ar­row — thou­sands of jobs and an enor­mous do­mes­tic sup­ply chain, both in Canada and the United States, are sup­ported by its com­po­nents and assem­bly.

But draw­ing upon lessons from the can­cel­la­tion of the Ar­row pro­gram, Trudeau and his min­is­ters have been con­sis­tent in their po­si­tion — Bom­bardier is fol­low­ing the rules, and Boe­ing’s claims are self-serv­ing and un­founded. And, rather than cave in to the pow­er­ful forces south of the bor­der, Canada is stand­ing firm.

In fact, the Trudeau gov­ern­ment has even threat­ened to scrap talks with Boe­ing on a po­ten­tial con­tract from Canada for a fleet of Boe­ing-pro­duced CF-18 fight­ers. Trudeau has thus far made it clear that a Cana­dian de­fence aero­space deal will not take place with a firm that at the same time seeks to dis­man­tle Canada’s world class com­mer­cial aero­space in­dus­try. Boe­ing seems to have se­verely mis­cal­cu­lated. This gov­ern­ment knows its coun­try’s his­tory.

Aero­space con­jures images of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion. Yet, its story in­cludes the great­est missed op­por­tu­nity in Cana­dian his­tory.

It’s time to write a new, con­fi­dent and for­ward-look­ing story — for Canada, and for the thou­sands of peo­ple who have in­vented great­ness yet again.

Aziz Guer­gachi is a pro­fes­sor at the Ted Rogers School of Man­age­ment and is the aca­demic ad­viser, MBA in­tern­ships, in the aero­space in­dus­try at Ted Rogers MBA. He is also an ad­junct pro­fes­sor at York Univer­sity, math­e­mat­ics and statis­tics de­part­ment.

Boe­ing seems to have se­verely mis­cal­cu­lated. This gov­ern­ment knows its coun­try’s his­tory.


A full scale model of the Avro Ar­row air­craft at the Toronto Aero­space Mu­seum.

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