In a sadly familiar routine, a recent opinion piece in the Globe & Mail on the relationship between another business and the Canadian government devolved into stale and tired cheap shots at Bombardier.
For any readers sensing déjà vu at guest columnist Sandy White’s piece, that's because it was already published elsewhere. He lifted the entire portion on Bombardier, word-for-word, from an article that ran in Huffington Post earlier this month. Apparently, Globe editors either didn’t notice or care that their readers got leftover material, so long as he took a swing at our company.
Readers of this blog know that Bombardier has always welcomed good faith critiques and an open discourse about our business and its performance. And, Mr. White is of course welcome to his views. What’s unacceptable, however, is the flawed and unprincipled way those views are presented. His complete disregard of facts fails to meet even the basic standards for honest and informed editorializing.
Rather, Mr. White relies on ad hominem insults, declaring our company is “incompetent” and “corrupt.” Let’s hope these broad accusations are not directed at all of the more than 21,000 employees we have in Canada, let alone the nearly 1,000 university and college students who have chosen to intern with Bombardier over the course of last year.
White, also demeans anyone who does not share his viewpoint, insisting it’s “naïve [to view] Bombardier as one of Quebec’s economic crown jewels." He provides no real justification for his opinion. I guess he is expecting readers to surmise that his experience as registered lobbyist for the Quebec Nightlife Association gives him superior insight. What cocktails and dance music have to do with gaining perspective about the global aerospace and rail industry is anyone’s guess.
Since Mr. White doesn't provide any facts on Bombardier’s vital contributions to the Canadian economy, I will. Let’s start with the fact that Bombardier has invested almost $9 billion in R&D in Canada over the last decade. We also sit at the top of a supply chain of more than 1,200 companies across the country. What’s more, our company added $8.4 billion into the Canadian economy in 2017 through exports of our products. Over 57,000 Canadians are employed – either directly or indirectly – by our company’s activities and plenty of those people are customers of the businesses that Mr. White represented.
Mr. White faults us for job cuts which are a difficult but necessary aspect of any company going through a turnaround process like ours. But he does not give us credit for our improving financial performance or the thousands of jobs created with our new growth programs. Had Mr. White spent any time in one of Bombardier’s factories, service centers or R&D labs he might have been able to contribute meaningful commentary to the public discourse on our company.
The reality is that Bombardier continues to make exciting progress executing an ambitious and historic transformation, one that’s now three years underway. Just last year Bombardier grew its earnings 42% and finished the year with a backlog of more than $53 billion – undoubtedly indications of competent performance.
Are we operating perfectly and at the level we’d like? Not yet. But, three years into our turnaround we are making big strides and any reliable analysis of our business ought to include that context.
Mr. White's also wrong about the way he characterizes our business ethics. The one former employee who was charged by Swedish authorities last year was fully acquitted when the case came before a court. The various reviews underway in other jurisdictions are a prescribed part of how regulatory oversight is supposed to work. Bombardier is a large global company operating in many international markets, and our overseas operations are constantly being scrutinized or audited. This does not make the company corrupt as Mr. White suggests. An analogy would be saying that one of the bars or restaurants Mr. White represented is unsanitary and/or “under investigation” because health officials inspected their kitchens.
Finally, it’s puzzling that a lobbyist like Mr. White has apparent disdain for strong working relationships between business leaders and public officials. The simple truth is that every industrial company around the world relies on the geopolitical support of its home country. Why? Because they understand that the economic growth and the well-being of their citizens depends on a strong and vibrant private sector capable of innovation and winning in global competition. Absent strong government collaboration, the economic growth, jobs and interconnected industries that Bombardier and others enable would be gone from the country. It is naïve, Mr. White, to think otherwise.
Vice President Communications and Public Affairs