Finley not worried about delivery of new naval supply ships
Published Wednesday, June 24, 2015 2:59PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 24, 2015 9:38PM EDT
Public Works Minister Diane Finley does not appear to be worried about the fate of two permanent Navy supply vessels that the federal government has been promising for years.
According to federal documents obtained by CTV News, there is a high risk that two joint support ships will never get built in Vancouver. Following a press conference in North Vancouver on Wednesday, Finley was asked whether she could guarantee the ships would ever be delivered.
“There are no guarantees in life for anything, but we have every confidence that Seaspan will be doing the construction starting in 2017,” said Finley.
The minister reiterated numerous times that she is “very confident” that construction on the supply ships will start in 2017, reaching completion in 2021.
The fate of the new ships have been on the radar since both of the Royal Canadian Navy’s supply ships, HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur, were retired in November. The new supply ships were originally supposed to be in the water by 2012.
On Wednesday, Seaspan CEO Johnathan Whitworth briefly addressed the CTV News report and doubts about the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), which the supply ships are a part of.
“Even just last year … people were still saying the federal government’s not going to commit, contracts won’t be signed,” said Whitworth. “Believe it or not, that wasn’t that long ago that people were saying that (doubting the NSPS). In fact I even saw reports of that this morning.”
"I can tell you right now you should not bet against the federal government and you should not bet against Seaspan on the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.”
Whitworth made the comments at a news conference alongside Finley, marking the start of construction of three offshore fisheries science vessels -- the first class of vessels under the NSPS. He said he does not foresee any changes to the timeline on construction of the ships.
However, according to documents obtained by CTV News, the joint support ships are experiencing delays partially caused by the impact of the offshore fisheries science Vessel.
The documents describe “a risk that appropriate facilities, expertise and qualified labour force may not be available,” and “a risk the JSS design and its two ship production work in Vancouver could prove unaffordable.”
“This would necessitate significant redesign … or necessitate requesting additional project funding,” according to the documents.
In an email to CTV News Wednesday, Kenney’s Press Secretary Lauren Armstrong accused the media of misunderstanding the documents.
“It outlines possible future risks, not a situation that is actually happening,” said Armstrong. “In fact, the documents only show that we have put in place a management team to identify risks and develop a strategy before problems crop up. “
Armstrong said the establishment of a management team is “a function of prudent fiscal management” used in the public and private sectors.
Opposition blasts gov’t procurement record
NDP defence critic Jack Harris said that after delays, rising costs and the most recent details about the supply ships, it’s hard to have any confidence in the Conservative government’s procurement strategy.
“As the minister said, there’s nothing certain in life. Yes, that’s true. But there’s certainly nothing certain in procurement when it comes to this government’s track record as to what they’ve been able to produce the nine years they’ve been in power.”
Liberal MP John McCallum accused the Conservatives of “flailing” on the procurement file.
“We’ve seen this on fighter jets. Now we’re seeing it on ships. We’ve seen it on trucks,” he said. “All across the board they are failing to deliver the material which they have promised Canadians they would.”
University of British Columbia professor and military procurement expert Michael Byers warned the cost of the ships could continue to grow, unless “someone starts to move very quickly.”
“The consequence for the Navy is severe. We need a supply ship on the East Coast and on the West Coast so that we can form task groups. Without those supply ships, we cannot deploy the Navy abroad in any kind of numbers,” said Byers.
No call for tenders
On Tuesday, Defence Minister Jason Kenney gave an update on a stop-gap measure for the ships. He said the government is moving ahead with talks to retrofit a commercial ship at David Shipyard near Quebec City, until the two permanent supply vessels are brought into service.
“It was the view of the cabinet that this is a gap in our navy’s capabilities right now and we have to move quickly,” said Kenney.
The minister said the government is only considering a contract with Davie Shipyard for now, bypassing an open call for tenders, but warned that no final decision has been made.
Irving Shipbuilding Spokesperson Mary Keith said in an email that the company is “disappointed” that the supply ship retrofit will go to Davie Shipyards. Irving was selected to build Canada’s new combat vessels as a part of the NSPS.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife and files from The Canadian Press