(Figures in U.S. dollars unless otherwise stated)
By Leah Schnurr and David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, May 2 (Reuters) - The top Canadian official probing a request by planemaker Bombardier Inc for aid to support its new CSeries passenger jet on Monday indicated for the first time that Ottawa actively wanted to help the company, highlighting the number of jobs it provides.
Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains until now has said merely that the Liberal government would closely examine Bombardier’s request for $1 billion in aid and outlined some of the concessions he wants in return.
But on Monday he went notably further, detailing how much help Ottawa had given the company over the last 40 years and stressing the number of aerospace jobs across Canada that depended on Bombardier continuing to operate.
“We’ve been there with the company in the past, we’ve continued to remain engaged with the company and we want to be part of a solution going forward,” he told reporters. The CSeries is years late and billions of dollars over budget.
The government has previously said it wants assurances on jobs, investment in research and the location of Bombardier’s headquarters, which are in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec.
Noting that Bombardier has 950 suppliers across Canada, Bains added: “This is not simply a Quebec issue. This is a Canadian issue. This is a strong Canadian brand. We believe in it.”
Bains later told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp that Ottawa had provided C$1.3 billion ($1.0 billion) in loans and contributions to the firm over the past four decades.
This sum infuriates critics who complain Ottawa is engaging in corporate welfare to support a badly run company.
Sources say Ottawa is pressing Bombardier over its dual-class share structure, which is disliked by investors and analysts alike on the grounds it gives the company’s founding families too much control.
Executives said last week they had no intention of changing the structure. Asked about those comments, Bains told the CBC that the share structure was just one of many issues that needed to be addressed, but gave no further details.
Last week the CSeries received a major boost when Delta Air Lines Inc ordered 75 of the jets with an option for another 50.
$1=$1.25 Canadian Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler