VICTORIA, British Columbia — The battle over Canada’s proposed purchase of Boeing P-8 Poseidon aircraft is heating up, as the premiers of the country’s two largest provinces called for an open competition that would allow Canadian vendors to bid.
Quebec Premier François Legault and Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a joint statement July 12 calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow Canadian firms to compete to provide the Royal Canadian Air Force with a new maritime patrol aircraft.
They were responding to the decision by Defence Minister Anita Anand to champion the purchase of the Boeing P-8A aircraft for the military’s Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA) project.
The U.S. State Department on June 27 approved the Foreign Military Sale to Canada for 16 P-8A aircraft and related equipment at an estimated cost of $5.9 billion.
The Canadian military had originally planned a competition starting in 2024 to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CP-140 Aurora aircraft in the CMMA program. Bids were to have been submitted in 2027. Both Boeing of Seattle, with its P-8, and Bombardier of Montreal, Quebec, with its special mission Global 6500 aircraft, were interested in the business.
But in a surprise move in March, Canada requested pricing from the U.S. government for a fleet of Poseidons. Public Services and Procurement Canada, the federal contracting department, announced that the P-8 was the only aircraft that could meet Canada’s needs.
That has sparked a campaign of political lobbying by Bombardier and its industry partners, which include General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada of Ottawa, Ontario.
In their joint statement Ford and Legault stated the Canadian companies deserve a chance to compete. “These domestic firms should be able to compete in open, transparent tenders for important Canadian procurements, such as Canada’s Multi-Mission Aircraft replacement,” the premiers noted. They called on Trudeau and Anand and other ministers in the ruling Liberal government “to stand up for the Ontario and Quebec aerospace and defence sectors and allow our firms to compete in an open CMMA tender.”
Ontario has the largest economy in Canada, followed by Quebec. The latter is the largest of Canada’s 10 provinces in area and is second only to Ontario in population.
“It’s an important contract and we can understand the U.S. government must put a lot of pressure on the Canadian government, but we have a Canadian company, Bombardier, having plants in Ontario and Quebec that can supply what is needed,” Legault told reporters July 10 in Winnipeg where he was meeting with other premiers.
Ford also emphasized the need to buy Canadian. “Right now there’s a big footprint with Bombardier here in Ontario and we just want to endorse them to have a fair process,” Ford said July 10. “If Boeing’s better, then Boeing gets it. If Bombardier’s better, they get it. But it has to be a fair and transparent process. I love things made in Canada.”
Public Services and Procurement Canada has issued a statement pointing out that the U.S. notification did not commit Canada to the purchase of the P-8. “Canada continues to assess its options,” the statement noted. “The final decision will be based on Canada’s assessment of the offered capability, availability, pricing and benefits to Canadian industry and communities.”
No details were provided on when the final decision would be made.
Boeing has been conducting its own public relations campaign to support the deal. It noted it has over 550 Canadian suppliers across the country, with 81 directly contributing to the P-8 program.
“In strong collaboration with our Canadian industry P-8 partners and our extensive supply chain in-country, we appreciate the opportunity to build upon our more than 100-year relationship with Canada and grow our Canadian partnerships and investments,” Ted Colbert, CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, said in a statement on May 30.
Bombardier president Éric Martel thanked the premiers for their support. “This is a once-in-a-generation decision about the future of Canada’s airborne surveillance,” he said July 12.” The federal government must do better than a sole-source contract.”
David Pugliese is the Canada correspondent for Defense News.