Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


February 22, 2016

Investing in the aerospace industry

S. Simpson: I’m pleased to get an opportunity to engage in this debate in regard to the aerospace industry in British Columbia.

As the member for Abbotsford South says, it is a burgeoning industry. There are a number of businesses; it has about 160 or so. It’s important for GDP. Probably most importantly, it creates a little more than 8,000 direct jobs — good jobs — and probably 14,000 to 18,000 or 19,000 indirect jobs. It’s important as an employer too. That would make B.C.’s aerospace industry about the third-largest in the country, behind Quebec and Ontario.

The challenge here, as I see it, though, is that some of this industry has grown up over the past number of years in spite of the government. We know that there has been —and we’ve raised this issue in the House before — the challenge of a government that had preoccupied itself with LNG paying attention to other sectors that were, in fact, creating jobs day in and day out in British Columbia, like the aerospace industry.

I think this is an industry that is a good example of where progress could have been made around a strategy for this sector — to bring it along and allow it to have even more progress. Let me talk a little bit about that and what I mean by that.

One of the challenges with the aerospace industry is that there are 160 companies, but they’re mostly smaller companies. There are a couple of larger ones, but mostly they’re smaller companies. If there’s a challenge in this sector that you hear about, it is fragmentation. The industry is somewhat fragmented, and it becomes more important to find ways to consolidate that to allow the industry to move forward with a more focused and direct strategy. There hasn’t been the attention paid there.

The result of that also is some failure in other areas. One example: in British Columbia, about 8 percent of the manufacturing output in aerospace goes into R and D, research and development. We know how important that is. That compares to Quebec, where 22 percent of the manufacturing output is in R and D, and Ontario, where it’s about 19 percent.

So we’re not investing in R and D in this province in our sector. That’s very important if we want to be cutting edge, if we want to move forward — that we, in fact, have those investments in R and D. They’re not happening here, and we need to be encouraging more research and development. That’s an initiative the government should be getting behind in order to help accomplish that.

It’s my belief, when I look at the skills-training initiatives in the province and the blueprint, that we aren’t paying the attention we need to, to looking at the inventory of skill sets it will take to enhance this sector and making sure we’re training and have the trained people in place to be able to take advantage of that.

That becomes important because about 80 percent of the commercial airline business is replacing itself. It’s just that it’s aging, and over the next 20 years, that will happen. We know, and we are being told, that brand-new materials like carbon fibres, ceramics and advanced metallics are the new materials.

Those are not initiatives that the B.C. industry is dealing with. They need some support there too to be able to move their businesses forward and stay highly competitive around aerospace.

It’s time for a B.C. strategy. This is where the government has to step up — working with the sector, working with academics, working with government — and pull together that sector to make sure that we’re not only doing well, as we are today in aerospace, but that we truly are cutting edge moving forward and that we have a strategy that allows a consolidation, allows us to move forward, allows those 8,000 jobs to grow substantially in the future and makes sure that this industry does, in fact, stay competitive and become more cutting edge.

That will happen with some leadership from government working in collaboration with the sector. I don’t believe that that leadership has, to this date, been provided. I would look forward to the government doing that so that we can make even more progress in aerospace as we move forward.

https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/40th-parliament/5th-session/20160222am-Hansard-v33n1

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