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Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard talks to the press in a Quebec City pub on Feb. 21, 2018.FRANCIS VACHON

Premier Philippe Couillard suggested Friday he's open to giving Bombardier a contract to replace Montreal's subway cars in order to stave off potential job losses at the company's plant north of Quebec City.

During a trade mission in Washington, D.C., Couillard said his government was in talks to award a contract to Bombardier after the company failed to secure more work at its plant in La Pocatiere, Que.

"Without going further, I would say today it's a hypothesis that is very interesting," Couillard said. "I called Montreal's mayor to talk about it. Why? Because the plant in La Pocatiere is made for this."

Bombardier's transport sector lost its bid for the $630-million project to supply Montreal's electric light rail network.

The contract went instead to its rival, French company Alstom, without any minimum guarantee for local Quebec content.

Bombardier's La Pocatiere plant is currently finishing an order for Montreal's Azur subway cars and, without a new contract, half the factory's 600 workers could be laid off in the fall.

Montreal was planning to replace the remainder of its aging fleet for 2036, but in order to save the jobs, Couillard said he considering advancing the contract and awarding it early to Bombardier.

Mario Guignard, president of the plant's union, welcomed Couillard's comments.

"They are talking about us and it's positive," he said during an interview. "Often we hear of other factories with regards to delays or about the salaries of our bosses, but we rarely hear about the world-class plant right here in La Pocatiere."

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