And now for the not so good news about our Navy: David Puliese, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, reports that “The federal government and Irving Shipbuilding are trying to figure out how to deal with a gap between construction of navy ships that could eventually result in layoffs … [because] … There will be a lull between the completion of work on the Royal Canadian Navy’s new Arctic offshore patrol ships and the construction of a new fleet of frigates called the Canadian Surface Combatants … [and] … What exactly will happen because of that lull is unknown but federal officials acknowledged at a news conference Monday they are worried about the potential loss of highly skilled employees and their expertise if shipbuilding work dwindles.“
That is a legitimate issue and i am glad that Team Trudeau is worried about it. It has little to do with the fact that Atlantic Canada elected Liberals in every single one of the 32 seats in NB, NL, NS and PEI and a lot to do with the fact that the Navy’s new surface combatant programme could be at risk if valuable, highly skilled workers move to other, more secure jobs. In fact, one element of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy was to provide steady work for Canadians.
What was a bit disturbing is that at the same news conference Irving Shipbuilding‘s President Kevin McCoy “made clear … that rival Davie Shipyards in Quebec would not be receiving any work on the various projects.” That’s disturbing for two reasons:
- Davie represents 50% of Canada’s shipbuilding capacity so, maybe, it is short-sighted to exclude it from a national shipbuilding strategy; and
- Why in hell is the president of Irving Shipbuilding saying that the Government of Canada will not be awarding contracts to a rival firm? It smells like Irving is dictating national procurement policy … why in god’s name, one might (reasonably) ask, are we providing big pay cheques and chauffeur driven limos for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Innovation Minister Navdeep Singh Bains and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough if they are just puppets for Mr McCoy? Mr McCoy, no doubt, has his own limo!
Now, Mr Pugliese says that “Davie,” which has “has completed converting a commercial vessel into a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy … [and] … has proposed converting a second such ship so the navy can have a supply capability on each coast … [but, he adds] … the federal government has rejected that proposal … [and, now] … Davie has warned that without the work it will have to lay off up to 800 employees in the coming months.” Why, one might, again reasonable, ask are job losses in Vancouver and Halifax problematic but not In Levis? Could it be, as I suggested the other day, that it’s “because the Davie yard is in the Bellechass— Les Etchemins — Lévis riding held by Conservative MP Steven Blaney, and perhaps good middle-class jobs only go to loyal Liberal voters?”
Davie broke a couple of rules:
- First, it drove itself into near ruin when, as one of the corporate darlings of “Quebec Inc,” it grew to be almost totally reliant on government money that required nothing in return ~ there was a good reason that the very senior civil servants who designed the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy in around 2010 left Davie off the list: it was a terrible company, no matter where it was based;
- Then, Davie solved part of that problem by being taken over (and over and over, again) by foreign (European) owners; and
- Third, Davie committed the unpardonable sin of being original and innovative.
There is, of course, a simple way for Team Trudeau to solve the job problems in Vancouver and Halifax (and in Levis, for that matter): pump some extra money into the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship project at Irving to build one or two more ships of that class ~ I understand Irving has, maybe, just barely enough money to build six of the eight ships the Navy said it needed. In Vancouver, once again, some additional money could be injected to either add another Coast Guard Ship or move ahead with the Polar Icebreaker or bring the Navy’s supply ships forward. But I doubt the Trudeau government wants to spend any more money on ships … they are not part of any of the sunny ways, feminist, green or First Nations agendas.
As for Chantier Davie, I fear that Kevin McCoy’s comments have opened the door for Davie to play the Québec card and fan the flames of anti-Ottawa/anti-English sentiment that are never far below the surface.
I think that the Trudeau regime is employing a dangerous double standard here and I suspect (hope, actually) that it will come back and bite them in the bum between now and 2019. The smart thing to do now would be to:
- Remind Mr McCoy that a closed mouth gathers no feet;
- Tell senior civil servants that they, on behalf of ministers, not civilian contractors, are responsible for how projects move ahead ~ it may be, as some foreign potential bidders have complained, the process for selecting the new Canadian surface combatant is deeply flawed because it allows Irving to have to much control. If that’s the case then Irving needs to be reminded that is responsible for building ships, not for deciding government policy; and
- Reopen the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, top to bottom, to ensure that it is, indeed, national, not just in favour of two contractors.