Government aid for Bombardier would be "a slap in the face" for Toronto, unless the company can first sort out problems bedevilling the streetcars it is building for the city, Toronto Transit Commission chair Josh Colle said.
Mr. Colle said Wednesday that he wants to see tangible change from the company, not just promises that it will do better, before Ottawa seriously considers opening its purse strings.
The Montreal-based firm is angling for $1-billion in federal support to help its troubled aerospace division and its C Series jet program. The two sides remain in talks, and it's not clear how close they are to a deal. At the same time, the company's rail division has fallen woefully behind its promises for delivering on a 204-vehicle streetcar contract for Toronto – an order that happens to come in at about $1-billion.
The delays around Toronto's streetcar order are also leading to mounting concern at the regional transit agency Metrolinx, which is worried about getting its 182 vehicles in time to launch various light-rail lines, an order worth $770-million. Bombardier has not yet delivered the prototype vehicle it promised to give to Metrolinx last year, and time is beginning to run short to work out bugs and produce the fleet required to operate the new transit lines.
A Bombardier spokesperson said Tuesday that the prototype would be ready this year and that the firm would produce the remaining vehicles in time to allow Metrolinx to hit its deadlines. A spokesperson at the transit agency, though, said that at this point, it is only "fairly confident" the firm will come through in time.
"For me, as a resident of Toronto, as a transit user, as a citizen, then when you also read at the same time that there's potential federal money going out the door, I would just think that their ability to deliver to Toronto and Ontario would have some bearing on that," Mr. Colle said Wednesday.
"To me as a councillor and the chair of the TTC – I would imagine to our riders, too – it would seem a bit of a slap in the face if all of a sudden Bombardier were to receive hundreds of millions or billions of dollars from the federal government while they're not delivering on their commitment here in Toronto."
While the TTC contract has proven damaging for Bombardier's reputation in Canada's biggest city, it is seen internally and by the investment community as a mere annoyance in the context of its overall financial struggles. The company has a long-term debt of $9-billion and is trying to sell its C Series in a market for narrow-body planes dominated by Boeing and Airbus.
With a report from Nicolas Van Praet in Montreal