Bombardier Inc. has intensified lobbying activity with top decision makers in Ottawa as it seeks $1-billion (U.S.) in funding for its C Series jets, reporting scores of discussions with chiefs of staff, cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats over the past 14 weeks, according to the federal lobbyist registry.
Bombardier, which is waiting on a Liberal government answer to its funding request, has reported about 30 lobbying discussions with the federal government since the start of December, including multiple communications with the offices of Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Transport Minister Marc Garneau and the Prime Minister, according to the federal lobbyist registry.
"I'm not party to the negotiations but all I know is that if any decision were to be made it will certainly be done in best interests of all Canadians," said Greg Fergus, a Quebec Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary to Mr. Bains. "It's complex. It's huge and it requires due diligence."
The Liberal government says it is studying the business case of Bombardier's proposal. It may make a decision in the leadup to the federal budget's release on March 22. The Globe previously reported that the company was asking for a $1-billion equity investment, with risk- and profit-sharing, to support the struggling C Series program.
Bombardier spokeswoman Isabelle Rondeau confirmed that the C Series jet program has been part of the company's lobbying discussions among a "variety of government areas and government policies."
"Yes, as you know, we're in discussion with the government. [The C Series] is one of those subjects, obviously," Ms. Rondeau said. She wouldn't link federal investment in the company directly to jobs at Bombardier, but said the C Series program is a key element of the company's aerospace program.
Jobs will be a consideration for the Liberal government, which has pledged to go into deficit with an economic-stimulus package to boost the country's slow growth amid rising unemployment. "We're always concerned about jobs, whether it's in Quebec or elsewhere in the country," Mr. Fergus said.
Mr. Bains said in Parliament last week that the government is "engaged" with Bombardier on its request. "It asked for an investment. We are looking at the business case," Mr. Bains said.
Bombardier reported worse-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings last month and announced the slashing of 7,000 jobs over the next two years, 2,830 of them in Canada. Among the company's costs are bringing to market its new C Series jets, a program that is about $2-billion overbudget and more than two years behind schedule.
The company has received a letter of intent from Air Canada to buy 45 of its CS300 C Series jets, with options for 30 more. The Quebec government has also committed $1-billion in support for the program, though it expects the federal Liberals to pitch in the same amount.
Bombardier formally submitted its request to the government on Dec. 11, and since then has reported lobbying communications, sometimes in multiples, with key cabinet ministers representing Montreal ridings where Bombardier is based. The lobbying disclosures show discussions with Mr. Garneau and his chief of staff Jean-Philippe Arseneau, Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion and his chief of staff Julian Ovens, Mr. Bains and his chief of staff Elder Marques, as well as communications with other senior advisers to cabinet ministers.
The company has also reported communicating with policy advisers in the Prime Minister's Office and with Finance Minister Bill Morneau's director of policy, Robert Asselin. It has disclosed multiple discussions with John Knubley, deputy minister of the Department of Innovation and Economic Development, as well as the department's assistant deputy minister, Philip Jennings.
The disclosures do not say whom from Bombardier is leading any meetings, meaning it could be anyone from chief executive Alain Bellemare to company officials. The lobbyist registry shows that former CEO Pierre Beaudoin is registered separately to lobby as a Bombardier board member, and that he reported communications with Mr. Bains and Mr. Garneau last Nov. 18 but nothing since.
Quebec Transport Minister Jacques Daoust said in late February that one option on the table involves federal representatives on a board overseeing Bombardier's C Series program.
The seven-member board would have two members representing Quebec, two for Ottawa and three for Bombardier.
Perrin Beatty, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Michel Leblanc, chief of the Metropolitan Montreal Board of Trade, have also been advocating for the federal funding for Bombardier. They suggested in an open letter last month that without federal funding, the C Series program could fail, causing a loss of more than 2,000 jobs.
The federal Conservatives have criticized a possible bailout, saying the Liberals are "cooking up a backroom deal." The opposition party last week introduced a motion at a parliamentary committee to invite Bombardier executives to explain why they need federal funds but the Liberals voted down the proposal.
The Conservatives also called on the Liberals to support extending the runway at Toronto's Billy Bishop airport to pave the way for Porter Airlines to purchase C Series planes.