By Ian Francis
LIAT’s recent decision to purchase new passenger jets that will replace the ageing Dash 7 and 8 de Havilland aircraft is welcome news for many companies in the aircraft production business. For regular travellers and other airline customers, it is also good news, since the new acquired aircraft will have increase passenger capacity, better fuel consumption and greater technological capacity that will ultimately contribute to improved regional air safety.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at email@example.com
The ageing Canadian de Havilland fleet that is estimated to be over 20 years old has served the region well in varying diverse areas. The regional airline has been quite fortunate in having in its employ a competent group of pilots and aircraft maintenance mechanics. The de Havillands also have an excellent air safety recordnot only in the Caribbean region but extending to Northern Canada, various parts of Africa and Latin America.
Canada’s Export Development Corporation (EDC) and the personal intervention of former prime minister Brian Mulroney must not be forgotten as EDC’S lending sensitivity and Mulroney’s deep commitment to Canada-Caribbean relations significantly contributed to LIAT’S acquisition of the Dash 7 and 8 aircraft. Oftentimes, Caribbean regional leaders tend to suffer a memory lapse and the possibility exists that a lapse can occur when LIAT’s board of directors convene their selection meetings for making the decision to purchase a new fleet.
In recent times, the region has been bombarded with various enticements for the purchase of aircraft and many providers’ names and available purchase perks have been bandied around. However, those engaged in making this important decision must remember that Canada-Caribbean relations, which started in the 18th century, remain very much intact.
Another important factor in Canada-Caribbean relations, which is sometimes ignored, is that, immediately after the West Indies cricket team was established, their first overseas trip was to Canada, where they were warmly received. The Canadian archives remain blessed and proud of such a memorable occasion.
As the lobbying efforts intensify for LIAT’s attention to purchase a new fleet of aircraft, the LIAT board of directors must be reminded that Canada has always been around as a true and trusted friend. In addition, there are also many notable initiatives currently taking place between Canada and the Caribbean that should be taken into account when the purchasing decision is being made.
From my vantage point in Toronto, there are several outstanding initiatives currently underway in the region between Canada and CARICOM that awarding a contract to Bombardier should not be a difficult decision. Here are my reasons:
The CARIBCAN Trade Agreement
From all available information gleaned from Georgetown and Ottawa, it would appear that the fourth round of discussions to enhance and broaden the CARIBCAN trade agreement has just ended in Bridgetown. If this information is correct, it would appear that talks are proceeding well and, hopefully by the end of this year, the CARICOM Secretariat and Ottawa will be in a position to sign a new trade agreement that would enhance trade and investments between Canada and the region.
It must be reminded that it was a previous Canadian Conservative government under Mulroney that established the first CARIBCAN agreement. Unfortunately, the agreement remained hidden or locked up in several government cupboards throughout the region and very little was achieved through Canada’s generosity. My only reminder to the negotiators is that they must be reminded that the CARIBCAN trade agreement is not a government domain and efforts must be made to encourage diverse stakeholders to participate and benefit from the agreement.
Canada’s Establishment of a Search and Rescue Hub in Jamaica
Canada’s recent decision to establish a search and rescue hub in Jamaica is an excellent decision and must be openly embraced by all CARICOM nations. Canada’s timely foresight in establishing this resource facility will surely augur very well for ongoing Canada-Caribbean relations. Canada’s presence, sincerity and generosity in the development process of the Caribbean Commonwealth have always been one of caring, and effectively responding to the region’s felt needs. LIAT and participating regional governments now have the opportunity to say thank you, Canada, by awarding the aircraft purchases to Bombardier of Canada.
The established hub in Jamaica will significantly contribute to search and rescue training throughout the CARICOM region. In addition, there will be other opportunities for broadening capacity building initiatives in the Regional Security Services, the Jamaica Defence Force and OECS Defence Forces like St Kitts-Nevis, Commonwealth of Dominica and Antigua-Barbuda.
Racial Diversity and Inclusion
Bombardier has a very racially diverse workforce in Canada that includes many workers originally from the Caribbean, Africa and Canada. In addition to its diverse workforce, Bombardier and its affiliates have had a long and historical experience working in many regions including the Caribbean. They understand the region’s air transportation needs and can positively meet those needs. Bombardier is a model federal employer in Canada.
Canada’s Aerospace Technology
Regional jets with seating capacities of up to 100 passengers have become extremely popular in Canada. The popularity of this transportation mode has also been recognized in many United States cities, which has resulted in huge purchases from Bombardier by many well-known world airlines. LIAT and participating regional governments must understand that as they seek to re-brand the tourist industry, reliable and known air transport technology must be an inclusive part of the rebranding process.
LIAT and participating regional governments are urged to consider purchasing a new fleet of regional jets to replace the ageing de Havilland. With good planning and aviation foresight, there is no doubt that the EDC will be willing to come to LIAT’s assistance once more.
Finally, the LIAT decision is extremely positive and the purchasing process should commence right away. Canadian aviation technology has served the region very well and there is absolutely no indication that it won’t be successful in the future.
Canadian Caribbean people in the Canadian Diaspora are watching carefully LIAT and the regional governments’ next move. Bombardier is the way to go.