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Aerospace industry at risk

The aerospace industry is "at risk" of being overtaken by foreign rivals if government doesn't treat it as an "urgent priority" and work with the sector to staunch falling employment and GDP contributions, an industry report says.

New funding commitments, Canada-first defence procurement and fresh talent amid "a massive labour crunch" are key to staunching the decline, according to the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) report, authored by former Quebec premier Jean Charest.

"We need a heck of a lot more people in the industry," Charest told The Canadian Press from France ahead of the Paris Air Show.

"We are clearly trying to influence the leaders of the next federal election campaign. We make no bones about that."

The report comes amid growing concerns about the state of aerospace manufacturing and maintenance, as Bombardier looks to exit the commercial aviation business and global aircraft production edges toward a duopoly dominated by Boeing and Airbus.

"Global competition has never been tougher, and we're at a turning point where Canada must step up, or risk being left behind," Charest said.

Since 2012, aerospace employment and GDP contributions in Canada have declined five per cent and four per cent, respectively, according to the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

The industry furnished 213,200 jobs last year and injected $25.5 billion into the economy, but will need 50,000 more workers within the next few years, the report states, stressing the need for talent.

It calls for a national system to co-ordinate co-op placements, fast-track immigration for skilled aerospace workers and partner with stakeholders to create national training centres.

The report also recommends launching a "national defence industrial strategy" and overhauling the procurement process to open it up to small business and industry giants alike.



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