Industry welcomes aerospace funds

Tucked into a $48-billion budget that was heavy on health spending, housing affordability initiatives and changes to the Medical Services Plan were small items that could have a big impact on the Island economy.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced funding would continue for programs in the province’s aerospace, forestry and mining industries that will result in jobs and revenue for Island companies.

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The province confirmed it will provide its third instalment of $5 million for the Pacific division of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada.

It will be a big step in helping developing companies find their feet in a global business, said Viking Air chief executive Dave Curtis. “I’m a believer in developing an aerospace supply chain in B.C.”

Curtis said many suppliers tend to be based in central Canada, which means Viking pays more for parts and services. “The better the supply chain out here, the cheaper it is for us.”

Curtis said there are plenty of small B.C. companies that could do work for Viking, but they need to develop other markets to be sustainable.

“If they can get out there and understand the opportunities in a global context, then we can add to that,” he said, noting the Aerospace Industries Association has been able to help more than 40 small local firms broaden their appeal.

B.C.’s aerospace industry records about $1.2 billion in revenue and employs about 10,000 people.

Viking used this week’s Singapore Air Show to make a pair of announcements about expanding its own business.

The company introduced the Viking Twin Otter 400S seaplane, billed as the world’s first dedicated seaplane in the 15 to 19 passenger category. The aircraft is a variant of the Series 400 Twin Otter and will be sold for $6 million US.

Deliveries are expected in the first quarter of 2017.

Viking also announced it has leased four Twin Otters to Daily Air Corporation of Taiwan.

The aircraft will be delivered in the second and third quarters of this year.

$5-million boost to forestry sector

The budget also included a $5-million marketing boost to the forest industry through Forestry Innovation Investments, which is trying to open India to B.C. wood.

“It’s a significant step in the market diversification piece,” said Rick Jeffery, president of the Coast Forest Products Association.

Jeffery said B.C. is in the “pioneering process” in India and likened it to trying to open up China to B.C. wood 15 years ago. “We are kind of poking around in the dark to find where customers are, what the supply chain looks like, the markets and kinds of products in those markets and sending wood over to do pilot projects and tests,” Jeffery said. “It’s the slow laborious work to develop the marketplace.”

That work in China paid off. Fifteen years ago, only $15 million worth of wood was sold to China. Now that figure is $1.5 billion. “China was a case where we knew there was something there, but we weren’t quite sure what it was,” said Jeffrey. “That $5 million will help accelerate the process.”

Mining tax credit extended

While mining on the Island has slowed to a crawl due to low commodity prices, it may get some relief with measures included in the budget. Myra Falls zinc and copper mine currently has only a skeleton staff and Quinsam coal mine has suspended operations.

The province has extended the exploration tax credit through January 2020. It had been set to expire at the end of this year. It also renewed the flow-through-share tax credit, which expired at the end of last year.

“During this protracted downturn in the mineral exploration and development industry, companies need fiscal incentives that sustain grassroots exploration,” said Diane Nicolson, chair of the Association for Mineral Exploration. “These two important tax incentives allow companies to advance mineral exploration projects that could become mines and generate tax revenues in the future.”

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