MONTREAL — Two Ontario-based companies plan to expand their operations in Quebec as part of a major satellite project.
The agreement in principle announced Thursday between MDA, Telesat and the Quebec government is valued at $1.8 billion — with $450 million coming from the provincial government in the form of loans and investments.
The companies and the government say the deal could result in the creation of up to 600 jobs.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the new jobs will pay an average of $100,000 a year.
The agreement is part of Telesat's Lightspeed project, which aims to deploy 298 satellites in low Earth orbit — around 1,000 kilometres above the ground — and provide access to high-speed internet in remote regions.
The deal will see MDA build antennas for Telesat at its manufacturing facility in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, in Montreal's West Island. Telesat will set up a network operating centre in Gatineau. The satellites will also be built in the province.
Legault says that with Quebec's traditional aerospace industry struggling, the deal will help the sector.
"Because of what's happening with the pandemic, the next few years will be tough for aircraft, so it's a good opportunity to diversify in satellites," Legault says.
Under the terms of the deal, Quebec will provide a $50-million loan to MDA that will be forgiven after five years if the jobs are created. Telesat will receive a $200-million loan and the province will invest $200 million in the company.
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon says Quebec expects to make a profit on the deal with Telesat — and doesn't plan to keep its stake in the business over the long term.
"We want to be aligning our interests with those of the shareholders," he says. "Eventually, we'll be taken out, the idea here is not to be permanent in the capital but to be temporary."
He says the terms of the deals have been designed to reduce risk for the government.
Fitzgibbon says a financial contribution from the federal government is still needed before the deal is finalized.
Daniel Goldberg, the president and CEO of Telesat, said the company was attracted to Quebec by its highly educated workforce and aerospace industry experience.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021.
With files from Julien Arsenault in Montreal.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press