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Marois sympathetic to Bombardier workers as new jobs announced at another firm

DAVOS, Switzerland - Premier Pauline Marois expressed sympathy for laid-off Bombardier Aerospace workers on Wednesday although she says she remains optimistic about the company's future.

Marois said she was "very sad" for the 1,700 workers who were cut on Tuesday, about 1,100 of them from Quebec plants in Montreal and Mirabel.

"I am confident about things to come," she said. "Bombardier is a very big company. It has had difficulties in the past. It has always respected its commitments."

Marois made the comments while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Bombardier said Tuesday the permanent layoffs are among efforts to cut costs amid a tough market and delays with two new aircraft.

The latest cuts will help offset billions of dollars spent on plant improvements and the development of the CSeries, Learjet 85, Global 7000 and 8000, the company said.

The announcement followed several recent setbacks for Bombardier, which is the world's third-largest aircraft manufacturer after Boeing and Airbus.

Last week, it said its new CSeries commercial jet won't be ready for service until the second half of 2015, several months past its already-delayed previous goal.

The first flight and delivery of the Learjet 85 has also been delayed.

Bombardier Aerospace employs more than 35,000 people globally.

Marois noted that delays aren't exclusive to Bombardier as she pointed out that aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Embraer have also been hit.

Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin, who is also in Davos, said further layoffs are "not in the plans" of the company.

"Certainly, we don't like layoffs, but if you look at long-term growth, what is important is to make investments in the future and that's what we're doing. I believe things are in place for future growth."

Marois made the comments amid an announcement that Spanish company FerroAtlantica will be setting up shop in Quebec.

FerroAtlantica, which bills itself as the world's largest producer of silicon metal, said it will invest $375 million in Quebec and create 300 jobs.

"Very favourable" conditions atttracted the company to Quebec, said Pedro Larrea, the company's director general. These include discounted rates for hydroelectricity and a 10-year tax holiday.

"The future of FerroAtlantica today is in Quebec," said Larrea. "There is an understanding of our problems and a solution to our problems — electricity solutions and financial solutions."

The energy rebate risks upsetting other companies. Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa, for example, has threatened to close three of its plants in Quebec by 2015 if it doesn't get a cheaper rate.

"We will tell them that FerroAtlantica invested $375 million and so maybe establishing new industrial installations justifies an electricity discount," Marois said.

The province's investment arm is also interested in contributing between five and 10 per cent to the project.

The site of FerroAtlantica's plant has not yet been chosen.

Silicon metal is used in the auto industry, high-performance concrete and solar panels.

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