A proposal outlining the industrial benefits Boeing is prepared to deliver to Canadian companies in exchange for a sole-source interim fighter jet contract will land on desks at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada on Wednesday.
The pitch is being made even though the Liberal government has suspended discussions with the U.S. aerospace giant over a separate trade complaint and is reviewing the military purchase, which Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has claimed is urgent.
The proposal deadline renews concerns about the Liberal government’s plan to replace the air force’s aging fleet of CF-18s on both an interim basis and a long-term plan.
Buying 18 advanced Super Hornet fighters was described as necessary last fall in order for the air force to meet all of its obligations under both Norad and NATO simultaneously.
The government told Boeing last fall that it wanted delivery of the first jet by 2019.
“If that is the case, the clock is ticking mighty fast,” said Dave Perry, a Canadian Global Affairs Institute analyst who tracks defence procurements.
The government intended to purchase the Super Hornets as a stopgap until it could organize a full-blown competition to buy 88 advanced jet fighters on a permanent basis.
Perry said the falling out with Boeing has broader implications than just the interim purchase.
“I cannot see how this is not negatively impacting progress on the competition,” he said.
Unfolding commercial battle
Boeing’s commercial division has been engaged in a public battle with Canadian aerospace company Bombardier. The U.S. aircraft maker accuses Quebec-based Bombardier of being subsidized by the government, allowing it to sell its CSeries aircraft at well below cost.
In Washington, the U.S. Commerce Department is weighing whether to impose tariffs on Bombardier — a decision is expected at the end of September.
The Liberals, in a series of public rebukes, have called on Boeing to withdraw the complaint, saying the fighter jet deal requires “a trusted partner.” Talks over technical issues and benefits were suspended.
The government also made a show of snubbing Boeing officials at the recent Paris air show.
Despite that, defence industry sources say, the company is expected to deliver its proposal on time.