Canada’s defence minister drops in on Delta helicopter company

Canada’s minister of national defence was in Delta this week visiting a world provider of helicopter, maintenance and overhaul service.

Harjit Sajjan paid a visit on Tuesday April 16 to Heli-One’s River Road production facility, where he met with shop technicians and viewed key production stations.

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Company officials were eager to show off their state-of-the art facility specializing in rotor wing maintenance, component repair and overhaul for a range of helicopters.

Stephen Ow, senior director of business development and sales, said the company has a highly-trained and skilled workforce with a specialized skillset, but the opportunities can be even greater with more government contracts, including those for the military.

“By having a steady flow of contract work we can expand and maintain highly-skilled jobs right here in B.C.,” Ow told the minister. “We are asking for your support in considering qualified and capable companies like Heli-One in Western Canada where we can pursue some of these projects."

Sajjan said there are great opportunities available, noting he was impressed with the facility and its diverse workforce.  

“There is a lot more work that needs to be done in defence and this is one of the reasons we are visiting companies to see where there is opportunities where you can take part in as well,” said Sajjan. “I was really interested in learning what the company does so that I have a good understanding of what is happening in my own backyard, but we need to make sure we have the right companies as our government supports your industry.”

Employing around 300, Heli-One for a time was located at Boundary Bay Airport but relocated several years ago, moving operation to the River Road facility as well as another in Richmond, and a small satellite location at Boundary Bay.

Heli-One also has maintenance facilities in Norway and Poland as well as distribution hubs around the world, but remaining in Western Canada has been top of mind for the company which is hoping to secure federal government contracts in the billions that usually go to firms based in Eastern Canada.

"We have invested in a lot of training and a lot of capabilities which takes years. We want to look after these folks here and continue the business," president Eddie Lane told the minister. "But the main thing is the win-win we see with these programs, which is creating a steady workforce, and bringing this commercial and industrial practice to the military in the work we do."

At the end of the tour, Sajjan addressed all of the workers and then joined them for a group photo in front of the facility.

“I’d love to see more Canadian companies benefit and selfishly more on the West Coast, but at the end of the day we have to go through a competition and it’s the company and its employees who have to show the dedication and desire,” Sajjan said. “Obviously you have done that significantly already. We will look at every opportunity where we can to assist.”


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