Planes, Trains and Ski-Doos.

There is no more of an icon of business to Canadians than Bombardier. The company had its beginnings in 1935, with the snow coach designed by mechanic Joseph-Armand Bombardier. Since then, the company has experienced all the thrills and frights of a seemingly endless roller coaster ride of acquisitions, spin-offs and fire sales of entire divisions. And do not forget the generous government funds, to periodically rescue the company. Still, in the past five years, the company is reported to have lost 50 per cent of its value.

Bombardier today is a maker of private jets. One model is currently the largest of all corporate jet aircraft. The company has enough orders in hand to stay in business for the next two years. Then it might have to look for the next corporate saviour.

Corporate jets are a very volatile market. It has its feasts and famines. Most corporate jet manufacturers are also in the much more stable military aircraft business. The military is always in the market.

But Canada lost out on the military market in 1959 when the irascible prime minister John Diefenbaker said the Avro Arrow cost too much. He put 50,000 Canadians out of work. He made a bonanza of talent available to high technology firms in the U.S. Canada lost more than the fastest, long-range fighter aircraft in the world at the time but we chased away many of the technologists who were building it.

I was thinking of this when bemoaning the lack of high-speed trains in Canada. Despite the complaints about the high-speed Amtrak trains for the U.S. and the delays with the Toronto streetcars, Bombardier was the company that could give Canada the leap ahead into high-speed/green-energy train service across Canada.

This is the project that Canada needs to bring it into the 21st Century. It is the project that can pull this country back together. All we need are some politicians with guts and vision.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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