Canada, which has produced such hard-working aircraft as the Bombardier Q400, must keep innovating to compete in the future of the aerospace industry, says former deputy prime minister Jean Charest.
Aerospace in Canada is at a turning point. Exponential growth is predicted for the global industry over the next 20 years, but global competition has also increased and Canada has been losing ground.We know that in a world where technological disruption is the new normal, Canada cannot take for granted our place in the ranks of global aerospace leaders.That’s why the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada launched its Vision 2025 initiative over the past year — to chart a new course for our aerospace sector. I’ve had the pleasure of serving as chair of Vision 2025 and last week we shared our final report at the Paris Air Show, the biggest event in the aerospace world.The report signals that we have reached a pivotal moment for Canada’s aerospace industry, one that will decide its ultimate fate.It’s not the first time we’ve faced such a choice. Aerospace is a legacy industry in Canada because we decided as a nation at the end of the Second World War to make it so. The political leaders of the day saw the potential for aerospace to shrink our vast geography, facilitate global trade and commerce, help secure our borders and raise our quality of life.As a country with a small population, we didn’t have a natural domestic market for this. What we had, instead, was a long-term vision, deliberate public policy and sustained effort over the ensuing decades. It worked.Today, Canada is a top performer across key segments, including both international companies and hundreds of dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises. As more than one industry member has told me, we punch way above our weight.But when conditions change, new and strategic decisions need to be made.Internationally, demand for air transportation will soar. Over the coming decades — as the world’s middle class swells, with millions in India and Asia in particular joining its ranks — more people will want to travel.Everyone wants a share of that estimated $10-trillion market, including Canada’s traditional aerospace competitors such as the U.S., France and the UK. For the first time, it also includes countries such as India, Vietnam, China, Russia, Japan, Singapore and others. They’re thinking long-term — as far as 50 years out — and they’re moving fast.Our competitors also know that successful national aerospace industries are built on strong, determined government–industry partnerships. The government of France is a vocal champion of Airbus on the world stage. The UK government recently unveiled long-term strategies to attract global operations to its shores. Europe has its own Flightpath 2050 strategy. Japan and China each have their own. There are more.Governments have good reasons for getting behind aerospace. In Canada, the industry has provided nearly 215,000 good jobs across every province, contributing $25.5 billion to our GDP every year.So what do we need to do to keep that going?The Vision 2025 report tells us that we have all the elements for success. But we need the commitment of industry and government to confront new global realities and seize emerging opportunities together. Those opportunities include maintaining and building the most skilled and talented aerospace workforce in the world, using innovation to capture new opportunities, including carbon-neutral flight and unmanned airplanes, and ensuring small and medium-sized aerospace businesses thrive and grow.If we do that, our report estimates we can add another 58,500 jobs and $7 billion to our GDP. The decision to ensure the success of our aerospace industry today will define the world Canadians live in generations from now. We chose to be a leader. We need to choose that again.Jean Charest is a former premier of Quebec and former deputy prime minister.Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at email@example.com.CLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.