Why we build warships

About 10 years ago, when the national shipbuilding procurement strategy was announced, by the (Conservative) Harper government, there was much discussion about how many ships, what kind of ships and how much money ~ I seem to recall that the government of the day low-balled the costs at $35 Billion, the current Parliamentary Budget Officer says $70 Billion for warships aloneI suspect that a good guesstimate for all the ships (Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy) over their complete lifecycle, not just 25 years, is something like $150 Billion.

Is anything really worth that?

Do we really need “Cadillac” ships, as Jean Chrétien described the Mulroney Conservative‘s choice of a replacement for the even then ageing Sea King helicopters back in 1997?

Are we getting “Cadillac” ships?

The answers are Yes, No and No.

This video, made by Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver, explains what the national shipbuilding strategy is really all about. The ships, whether Coast Guard vessels or warships, are incidental to the strategy’s real aim which was, and remains, to rebuild a competitive shipbuilding industry in Canada. The goal always was “jobs! Jobs!! JOBS!!!” for Canadians.

Canada has the longest coastline in the world; Canada needs government fleets ~ more than just a Navy ~ to defend our coast, assert our sovereignty and maintain navigation for peaceful users; the ships are worth the price. We need warships, icebreakers, supply ships and research vessels, and, and, and … it is money well spent, and it creates good, Canadian, jobs.

The ships being built are good, but not “super-ships.” The Type 26 combat ships, for example, are anything but “Cadillacs.” They were designed and will be built after many, Screen Shot 2019-06-23 at 06.18.12many compromises between what the sailors wanted and what the budgeteers said we can afford. There is an old saying in military procurement circles that I think is reflected in the Type 26 ships: the very best is the bitter enemy of the good enough. In many projects that run over budget we have seen, over and over again, that 20% of the final budget is consumed to get the last 5% of performance … and we really only needed 97%, not 100%.

The national shipbuilding strategy is not about ships, it is about rebuilding an important, indeed strategically essential Canadian maritime industrial base that was allowed to rot away by successive governments, Conservative and Liberal.

150px-Stephen-Harper-January-26-2012So, good for Stephen Harper for initiating and implementing that national shipbuilding strategy and good for Justin Trudeau for not messing it up. But, as with our new Search and Rescue Aircraft (about which I commented yesterday) Canadians owe the good news to Prime Minister Harper’s strategic vision and political acumen. It was Conservatives who planned this … those good jobs are there because of a Consevative programme. Thank you Mr Harper.


Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

4 thoughts on “Why we build warships

  1. I would say that once you want ships, you will need their protection, that is a military force to protect them. There is no way any nation can avoid spending on defence.

  2. The Libs started the SAR aircraft replacement project in 2004. It was taken over by the Harper gov’t the next year. The couldn’t complete the project during ten years in power. The Libs completed the project this year :))

    1. You’re right that the project was defined in 2002 and the option analysis was done in 2004 … then it died. In mid-2005 journalists Mike Blanchfield and David Pugliese both reported that the project was on hold because Liberal ministers a) wanted to rig the specs to favour one aircraft or another, and/or b) Liberal ministres wanted to cancel the project, entirely. A full-scale project office was never established during the Chretien-Martin years. During 2007 both the Globe and Mail and the CBC reported that DND was pushing for a sole source contract but the Harper gov’t insisted upon a competitive process. Finally, in 2011, a real, properly staffed project office was established and project was approved (Harper) in Mar 2015 and the RFP was also issued in March.

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