AIAC Testifies Before House of Commons Industry Committee on Need For Sector Strategy

March 9, 2021

Mike Mueller
Interim President & CEO
Aerospace Industries Association of Canada

House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology 
Ottawa, Ontario

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon everyone.

It’s a pleasure to be here on behalf of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada.

We appreciate your interest in our industry and willingness to work with us on the challenges we are facing. 

We know we are not alone in these challenges.

Our entire aerospace ecosystem is feeling the pressure and is eager for a partnership with government.

Mr. Chair and members, we appreciate the enormity of the economic and social challenges this government, and you as parliamentarians, are facing because of the pandemic.

Our members are part of your communities and they are doing all they can to ensure the 235,000 jobs generated by this sector are protected. But it has been a difficult task.

As you know, more than 80 years ago, political leadership partnered with industry to build Canada into an aerospace sector that has become a global leader. Those political and business leaders had foresight and determination.

We need that same commitment now more than ever as we are grabbling with the economic affects of COVID19.

You may have seen the Hill Times, a simple advertisement calling on the government to do something that all our international competitors have already done.

And that is work with the Canadian industry to establish a long-term, nimble, sector strategy.

I know, many of you are thinking ok, that should be an easy thing to do.

And we agree.

However, we have been calling on the government to do just that for more than 4 years now. 

Allow me to provide some background.

Our members represent over 95% of aerospace activity in Canada, covering the civil, defence and space sectors.

Aerospace has been a driving contributor to Canadian prosperity for decades – responsible for the generation of nearly 235 thousand jobs and over $28 billion annually to our nation’s economy.

And this hasn’t happened by accident.

Virtually every aspect of our daily lives is touched by the innovation and technology driven by our sector.

Our past political leaders knew investment would yield significant dividends – and their vision proved correct.

As a result, over the course of many years – Canada became the 5th largest aerospace industry on the planet – and a true source of pride for Canadians.

But in recent years, that vision, investment, and support has been slipping… and so has Canada’s global positioning.

This decline started before the onset of COVID-19… and now the challenges have been compounded dramatically.

As a nation, we’re falling further and further behind and our industry needs support now.

The challenges mean that our skilled workforce… our considerable talent….our jobs and the good paychecks they provide are all at risk. 

However, the positive news is that we recognized this. And we started doing the heavy lifting years ago.

We laid the basis for our needed sector strategy in our Vision 2025 document and we have a path to once again make Canada a leader in aerospace.

A path designed to shore up and leverage our strengths.

A path – guided by industry – that laid out a vision for a revitalized aerospace sector that would yield significant results for our national economy.

With the release of our roadmap, we called on government to join us, and renew Canada’s overall commitment to global aerospace leadership.

We highlighted priorities and gave detailed recommendations.

But to our dismay, concrete action was not, and STILL has not, been taken.

Now, COVID-19 has significantly intensified the challenges.

A renewed partnership is essential to protecting the 235,000 highly skilled, well-paying jobs generated by this industry and located in YOUR ridings right across the country.

We can’t do it alone.

We need partners in parliament…from all parties, if we are to overcome the challenges and leverage the opportunities that lie ahead.

Other countries – our competitors – have realized this.

I cannot state this more seriously. Our competitor countries are positioning their sectors for the future… to be leaders in this highly competitive field and the good paychecks that come with it.

They are doubling down with new funding partnerships and we require the same.

Because they know that successful national aerospace industries are built on strong, determined government-industry partnerships.

So our question is – what are we waiting for here in Canada?

We are one of the few aerospace nations WITHOUT such a strategy for our industry.

As a result, opportunities have been, and will continue to be, lost.

We’ve had a global reputation for cutting-edge innovation – a skilled workforce that is the envy of the world.

And a strong supply chain that’s second to none. 

And with our export intensity at over 80%, the aerospace and in particular the space sector are a natural fit to help drive Canada’s economic recovery.

There are so many untapped opportunities… including in driving new, high-value jobs, innovation, and leadership when it comes to green aviation, a stated priority of the government. 

But we need a plan and funding to capitalize on them.

As I said, our competitors ARE taking action. They ARE factoring this in. And they ARE implementing industry strategies and supports.

Yet, Canada is not.

So I’ll close off my remarks today by asking you to consider the strategic nature of this industry.

Let’s ensure that Canadians can continue to take pride in our aerospace industry from coast to coast.

…To continue Canada’s leadership in R&D and in training.

…And to protect our skilled workers and good paying jobs and paychecks across the country- an overwhelming number being small businesses.

So let’s not be naïve. Let’s not lose our talent.  Canada’s main competitive advantage has been our skilled workforce and we are losing it due to COVID19.

Let’s also acknowledge that aerospace exists in a fierce, globally competitive marketplace and once our jobs leave, they don’t come back.

It’s no accident that a country of just 35 million has had such a thriving aerospace sector. 

So on behalf of our industry, we urge all of you to continue the tradition, and stand by us. Grow this sector for the future. Protect its legacy and its jobs.

Thank you.