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A third of Canadians would be more inclined to support a political party with a well-defined aerospace strategy in the next federal election, according to a recent poll from Nanos Research.
While 61 per cent of respondents said a coherent aerospace strategy would not affect how they vote, 35 per cent indicated it could, a figure with potentially significant implications for political parties preparing for an election in 2019, said Nik Nanos, the company’s chief data scientist and founder.
The findings were presented at the Canadian Aerospace Summit in Ottawa on Nov. 13 and came as the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) launched a four-month industry-wide dialogue and information gathering exercise led by former Quebec premier Jean Charest to develop recommendations the association hopes will influence a comprehensive government strategy for the sector.
All political parties would be wise to study Charest’s report, expected by March 2019, because a majority of Canadians “get” the aerospace industry and “see it as forward facing when they think about where the jobs [of the future] are going to come from,” said Nanos.
In fact, nine out of 10 survey participants supported the idea of creating an environment that fosters more aerospace jobs, and over 70 per cent understand and support an ecosystem that includes a vibrant supply chain of Canadian companies.
“Canadians see it as a good strategic investment for the government,” said Nanos, noting industry support cuts across region, gender and age.
More importantly, a large majority recognize the global nature of the sector and are willing to back initiatives to ensure Canadian companies can compete and export. “They understand that this is a global industry and that we have to be globally competitive,” he said.
Aerospace is among the leading manufacturing sectors in Canada, spending over $1.8 billion on research and development annually. Nanos found the R&D narrative resonates with a majority of Canadians, many of whom are anxious about the future and worry about their jobs and those for their children.
“[There is] fundamental disconnect between the macro economic numbers and how people feel,” said Nanos. While the economy continues to perform well, many people are “not sure where prosperity is going to come from; they are uncertain about automation and globalization.”
But, in part because of the quality of the jobs and the global demand for air travel and urban mobility, 43 per cent agree and 35 per cent somewhat agree that aerospace is “a key engine of growth for the future,” he said. In fact, over 80 percent see the sector as a generator of jobs for the future.
“[Aerospace] is the right sector, with the right narrative, in the right place, with the right forward look,” he said.
The significance of these findings for both the Liberal government and the Conservative opposition can be found in the 2015 election results and current concerns of Canadians about their economic future, explained Nanos.
Though the Liberals won with 39 per cent of the vote compared to the Conservatives 31 per cent, he argued the fundamentals on which that victory was based are now vulnerable. By avoiding any clear-cut mistakes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was able to undercut the Conservative narrative that he wasn’t ready for the job. He was also able to run a largely positive campaign with a populist message that the wealthiest one per cent of Canadians would pay their fair share in taxes.
Still, if one in every five voters had switched, the Conservatives would have won, said Nanos. “This is why that 35 per cent number is actually critical.”
In 2019, the Liberal party will have a record to defend and face much higher expectations about what it can deliver. And while recent successes negotiating complex trade deals will provide some momentum, there remains an underlying unease about future economic prosperity: In 2012, 26 per cent of Canadians believed the next generation would have a higher standard of living than them; in 2018, that figure had fallen to just 13 per cent.
If the next election, like so many before, hinges on jobs and the economy, the party with a coherent aerospace strategy for the future could benefit.