The Canadian government appears to be quietly setting the stage for the possible purchase of used Australian fighter jets amid an ongoing trade spat with aerospace giant Boeing that shows no signs of being resolved.
On Thanksgiving Monday, a holiday throughout the public sector, Public Services and Procurement Canada posted a notice on its website, confirming it had entered into discussions with Australia’s government in late August “to assess the potential purchase of F/A-18 fighter aircraft and associated parts they plan to sell.”
On Sept. 29, two days after a trade dispute involving Canadian firm Bombardier and U.S. firm Boeing reached a new level of animosity, Canada submitted a formal expression of interest to the Australians.
“Canada expects to receive a response by the end of this year that will provide details regarding the availability and cost of the aircraft and associated parts that Canada is considering,” Monday’s notice reads.
“Separate discussions with Boeing related to the interim purchase of Super Hornet aircraft remain suspended. The Government of Canada continues to engage with the U.S. Government as it explores all options moving forward.”
Boeing’s complaint to the U.S. government about alleged “dumping” by its rival Bombardier and unfair competitive advantages as a result of Canadian government subsidies has led to enormous tariffs being imposed on the Canadian firm’s new fleet of C-Series aircraft.
WATCH: What is going on with the Bombardier, Boeing dispute?
Late in the day on Sept. 26, the Americans slapped Bombardier with a 220 per cent countervailing duty on planes scheduled to be delivered within the next year to U.S.-based Delta Airlines, then added another 80 per cent tariff late last week.
Ottawa had, until recently, been planning to purchase a number of Boeing’s Super Hornet jets as a stop-gap measure to replace our existing fleet of CF-18 fighters until a full complement of new jets can be procured.
The notice posted Monday is the latest indication that the deal is in serious trouble.
While not committing publicly to scrapping the Super Hornet purchase, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland have each expressed deep disappointment with the U.S. decisions linked to Bombardier.
They have repeatedly said that Canada will not do business with Boeing if it continues to place Canadian aerospace jobs in jeopardy.
WATCH: Canada to ‘push back’ against Boeing’s attempt to steal Canadian jobs
Confirmation of a potential deal with the Australians happened just one day before Trudeau left for Washington, where he is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump later today. Trade concerns, including the dispute involving the aerospace sector and the ongoing attempts to renegotiate NAFTA, are expected to be among the top items on their agenda.