David Pugleise, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, says that Irving Shipbuilding, in Halifax, is pressing the federal government, which owes some of its majority to having swept all the seats in Atlantic Canada, to build even more of the Harry DeWolf class Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, which are, as I have explained, constabulary ships, not warships, and which I argue belong in a constabulary fleet, preferably in a revitalized Marine Division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
But what Irving is asking for is, in many respects, a logical conclusion to the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy which aimed, after all, to level out the peaks and valleys of the business cycle (especially the valleys) by providing a steady, long term stream of government work. Refits (overhauls) and routine maintenance are, I guess, a legitimate part of that work but, in the past, the Government of Canada has treated major repair and overhaul contracts (each worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars) as stand alone projects. Irving is now asking to be the official life cycle support contractor for the entire project and that will be worth several billion dollars. It makes good business sense for Irving. I can see some political payoff in being able to tell Halifax area workers that they will have jobs for life and that their sons and daughters will have jobs, too … Canadian warships have notoriously long life cycles. I’m less sure that the Auditor General will agree that it provides good value for money to the Canadian taxpayer.
I looks to me as though Irving wants to set itself up as, at the very least, the Atlantic Fleet’s primary (only) repair and refit contractor, de facto, shutting Quebec’s Chantier Davie out of the process. I’m not sure that makes economic, political or military sense. I think that if I am an admiral or a senior bureaucrat I want repair and refit capabilities for my major warships to be available on both the Atlantic and Pacific coats and in the St Lawrence, and even in a perfect world, in the Great Lakes, too.