Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Their ships have come in

B.C., Halifax score $33B in contracts; Quebec out

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OTTAWA -- A cross-country political dogfight over shipbuilding contracts ended in a win for both coasts Wednesday, as the federal government awarded $33 billion in contracts to dry docks in Halifax and Vancouver and froze out Quebec.

Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax will receive a $25-billion naval-vessel-building contract, while Seaspan Marine in Vancouver will receive an $8-billion contract for building coast guard and other non-navy ships.

A third shipyard, Davie Shipyard in Levis, Que., was not chosen by the arm's-length body tasked with awarding the contracts.

The reaction from Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter and B.C. Premier Christy Clark was immediate and ecstatic. "What an amazing, historic day for NS," wrote Dexter over Twitter.

"Eight billion dollars is huge. At a time like this, when the world is experiencing all this economic uncertainty, it is going to be big," Clark told reporters moments after the result was made public. "What this means is we will see thousands of jobs come to British Columbia as a result of this federal money -- thousands of high-paid jobs, people who are going to be able to support their kids, solid middle-class jobs and I think it's so important. I'm absolutely delighted."

According to an estimate released by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, the work will create about 15,000 jobs. However, defence analysts have said the benefits and the money of the procurement program will be spread across the country -- with Central Canada standing to cash in a lot with subcontractors.

"The bids were all strong," Francois Guimont, deputy minister for public works, told the Ottawa media conference. He skirted a question about Davie's failure to land a contract.

Still to come are announcements on two other federal shipbuilding contracts -- one package amounting to $2 billion and another worth $500 million per year for 30 years for maintenance.

The media conference announcing the contracts -- the largest such federal shipbuilding procurement program since the end of the Second World War -- dwelt at length on government efforts to eliminate the political sniping between regions that usually erupts over such projects.

"I found no fairness deficiencies," said Peter Woods of Knowles Consultancy Services, hired by the government to monitor the fairness and transparency of the process. "(This was) one of the best, if not the best."

The Bloc Québécois pounced on the announcement. By ignoring the Davie Shipyard, it said, the federal government is abandoning Quebec workers -- and it accused the NDP of letting Quebec down by not standing up for its interests.

The reaction from Quebec City was also frosty. Quebec Economic Development Minister Sam Hamad said his government is "extremely disappointed" with the decision.

"Quebec was not selected... Now we want to know why," Hamad said, adding Davie had a "very strong bid."


-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 20, 2011 A11

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