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Silent Partners: Taxpayers and the Bankrolling of Bombardier

A global powerhouse, Bombardier is the world’s biggest producer of rail and mass transit equipment and the third largest player in the aerospace industry. But the company was built with enormous help from the Canadian taxpayer and has become a symbol of corporate reliance on government aid. Over the years, it has received billions in federal financing and loan guarantees for the sale of its airplanes and trains. This is the story of Bombardier Inc., Canada’s best known manufacturer abroad. Its passenger jets, business aircraft, subway cars, and inter-city trains have conquered markets around the globe. A family business started in the backwoods of Quebec, Bombardier grew from an obscure snowmobile manufacturer into an international giant. Laurent Beaudoin, a brilliant entrepreneur, parlayed the family’s modest investment into one of Canada’s biggest fortunes. But his path to success was marked by controversy. Bombardier became the prime suspect in a national outcry over corporate welfare in Canada. Critics said it could never have succeeded without tax breaks, loans, and subsidies from the government. Was it a fair charge? Did Bombardier really depend on the backing of its silent partners, the taxpayers of Canada? Or were these the rules of the game in the heavily subsidized world of planes and trains? Silent Partners examines the record, the politics, and the personalities behind the deals. It’s the story of how business gets done in Canada. It’s about regional and linguistic cleavage, democratic values, and public trust. Above all, it’s the story of two business leaders, Laurent Beaudoin and Paul Tellier—one a visionary builder, the other a corporate saviour—and how they planned to ask Canadians for help just one more time.

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