Canadian PM says not shutting door to idea of aid for Bombardier

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday said he was not shutting the door on the idea of government aid for aerospace firm Bombardier Inc, which has run up big debts.

Bombardier's CS300 Aircraft sits in the hangar prior to its' test flight in Mirabel February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Trudeau said he would wait for a recommendation from Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, who has responsibility for the file. Bombardier’s struggles with its CSeries jet project have left the company saddled with debt and looking at a range of options to raise cash.

The powerful province of Quebec, where Bombardier is based, said last week it will invest $1 billion in the CSeries in return for a near 50 percent stake in the project. It now wants Ottawa to help the firm as well.

Asked whether he was shutting the door on Bombardier, Trudeau told public broadcaster Radio-Canada that “I am not opening or shutting the door.”

He added: “It’s the minister who will examine this. This is an important matter to consider, but it will be done based on the interests of Canada, Canadians and our economy, not based on political interests.”

The question of aid to Bombardier is a sensitive one for the ruling Liberals, who won many more seats than expected in Quebec in the Oct. 19 election. The party could pay a price in the next election if Quebecers feel Ottawa did not do enough to help.

Bains told reporters earlier on Thursday that his officials would be briefing him about Bombardier later in the day.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who represents a constituency in Quebec, told CTV television that Ottawa had not been formally approached about possible federal aid.

Trudeau said a decision would be taken by the full cabinet “based on the facts, based on economic reality, based on the recommendations of experts”.

Quebec has already contacted Bains’s office regarding an investment in the CSeries, a spokeswoman for the province’s economy minister Jacques Daoust said.

While media reports have cited Daoust asking the federal government to match its $1 billion investment, his spokeswoman Melissa Turgeon declined to specify an amount.

“We think the federal government should support the aerospace industry in Quebec like they supported the automobile industry in Ontario,” Turgeon wrote in an email. “The scope and details of their contribution, if any, will have to be discussed.”

Reporting by Randall Palmer, Leah Schnurr and David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Bernard Orr, Chris Reese and Ken Wills