Why Canada needs an industrial aerospace strategy

Guest Contributor
June 19, 2024

By Mike Mueller

Mike Mueller is the CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada. This op-ed first appeared here.

For more than 80 years, Canada punched above its weight in the global aerospace arena, thanks in large part to the innovative and collaborative efforts of industry, coupled with support from a longstanding partnership with government, and most importantly political will to ensure Canada held a place of leadership among the global aerospace supply chain.

Predictability and long-term planning are two essential ingredients of any successful nation engaged in the aerospace industry in any substantial way. Both of which have been lacking over the years and, as a result, Canada has seen investment in R&D for aerospace diminish with a sense of uncertainty.

Much of that perception changed at our most recent Aerospace on the Hill event. During the annual Ottawa lobbying event, in response to a question in Parliament, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Francois-Philippe Champagne, expressed his willingness to collaborate with the industry in crafting an industrial aerospace strategy for Canada.

This signifies a crucial turning point, with the stakes for Canada having never been higher.

Canada’s aerospace industry is not merely a contributor to our economy; it is a powerhouse, generating $27 billion in GDP, with more than 80 per cent of manufacturing revenues (approximately $18.7 billion) stemming from exports in 2022.

These are significant numbers, but in the absence of a supportive regulatory environment and clear commitment from government on an industrial aerospace strategy for Canada, we’re merely scratching the surface of our potential, allowing other nations to seize the opportunities in front of us.

Forecasts indicate, that over the next decade, there will be demand for 40,000 aircraft, countless numbers of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and other aerospace products, worth billions.

Canada has a distinct advantage as it is part of a select group of countries capable of manufacturing an aircraft from nose to tail and certifying it. Yet, labour shortages and resource limitations for certification at Transport Canada continue to impede our progress.

Civil aviation continues to be a pillar of the economy. A greater alignment and integration with space and defence will lead to advancements in satellite-based navigation, remote sensing for weather forecasting, and air traffic management systems, ultimately improving safety and efficiency.

The global space economy is another area that presents significant opportunity to showcase Canada’s aerospace prowess. While Canada’s contributions in satellite communications, Earth observation and robotics are substantial, generating billions annually and employing thousands of Canadians from coast to coast, according to the Space Foundation’s 2022 report, the global space economy reached $469 billion in 2021, with Canada failing to reach the top five among countries in “SpaceTech.”

The aerospace sector also plays a pivotal role in defending our boarders and national interests, supplying critical technologies to the Canadian Armed Forces. While the industry’s commitment to enhancing defence capabilities for the safety of all Canadians remains steadfast, with defence activity representing 17 per cent of total Canadian aerospace revenues in 2020, collaboration between civil aviation, space and defense is paramount to provide the predictability needed to better support impending defense projects and deter evolving threats.

Considering the more than 600 aerospace companies spanning every corner of the country, with more than 200,000 workers, an industrial aerospace strategy for Canada is a must-have. It is our blueprint for growth, economic prosperity and national security.

By aligning policies, investments, and opportunities through a comprehensive strategy we can leverage our competitive advantage and unlock our potential for world-class ideas. 

Looking ahead to the Farnborough International Airshow in July, we agree with Minister Champagne when he stated that we have an opportunity to take a Team Canada approach, to showcase to the world that Canada is open for business and ready to seize opportunities, with a strategy that positions Canada, its aerospace industry and workforce for all opportunities.

It is critical to have government, academia and stakeholders working together to ensure our country is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that go along with the demand for clean technology and advances of future mobility.

With an industrial aerospace strategy, we will have what it takes to compete. We have little time to waste.



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