Bombardier Inc. and a consortium of other companies and academic institutions are to receive up to $54-million from the federal government to develop "the next generation of aircraft technologies" but Ottawa is still mulling a major investment in Bombardier's new single-aisle C Series jet, says Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.
The funding, under the Technology Demonstration Program, will help develop state-of-the-art electric systems and advanced aerodynamic systems aimed at making aircraft more energy efficient, quieter and more reliable.
It was announced by Mr. Bains at a National Research Council Canada research facility at the University of Montreal, whose Polytechnique Montréal school is one of the consortium members.
Montreal-based Bombardier has also been seeking a major investment by Ottawa in its troubled C Series jet program, which is two years late to market and more than $2-billion (U.S.) over budget.
Quebec -- which last year committed to a $1-billion investment in the C Series program -- has been urging Ottawa to come to a decision on whether or not to match its funding.
"We're currently engaged with the company. We're at the table with them," Mr. Bains told reporters after the announcement Tuesday. "It's not a matter of 'if we want to engage Bombardier.' It's how. We're very confident that we can find a solution. We want to be part of the solution and we'll always be at the table. We won't walk away."
Talks between Bombardier and the federal government have been ongoing for several months now; one source said in June that Ottawa was insisting on "too many conditions," including changes to the company's controversial dual-class structure, which gives the Bombardier-Beaudoin family control despite owning a minority of the shares.
"The government wants to call the shots," the source said.
Asked why a decision appears to be taking so long, Mr. Bains replied: "We want to do our due diligence. We want to be thoughtful. But at the same time, we can't make a unilateral decision. It's not a decision that I would make. We want to make sure that the decision is consistent with the key priorities we've identified." Those priorities include ensuring that high-paying jobs and R&D are maintained in Canada, and that head office stays here as well, he said.
Asked if corporate governance is an issue, Mr. Bains said: "We're open and looking at all options. And the company agrees. They understand that."
Other companies and institutions in the consortium receiving the R&D funding for next-generation technology include Rolls-Royce Canada Ltd., Thales Canada, the University of Victoria, the University of Toronto, McGill University, Ryerson University and the NRC.