Monday, March 21, 2016

Tories urge Liberals to reconsider unsolicited icebreaker bid

Written by Murray Brewster, CTV-News

OTTAWA -- Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Steven Blaney says the Trudeau government was too hasty in dismissing a pair of unsolicited bids from the Davie Shipyard, which offered to pad out existing plans to rebuild the coast guard's icebreaker fleet.

The company, in Levis, Que., is located in Blaney's riding.

"It is irresponsible not to consider a competitive offer that would provide additional, much needed ships," he said.

He said he supports the national shipbuilding program conceived under the Conservative government, but there is nothing stopping the federal Liberals from adding ships to the plan outside of the existing framework.

Blaney says the rapidly aging fleet of federal civilian ships, particularly the heavy icebreaker Louis St. Laurent, needs replacements right away -- or at least faster than the existing plan can produce them.

"Let's be clear. We are expecting the shipyards to deliver the ships awarded under (the national shipbuilding plan) on time and on cost," Blaney told The Canadian Press. "But what are the needs of the navy and the coast guard? They have huge needs and if there is room for additional ships, well, this should be seriously looked into."

The shipbuilding program, announced five years ago, has yet to see any vessels constructed because the winning yards -- in Halifax and Vancouver -- have gone through hundreds of millions of dollars in modernization and planning.

Davie offered to rebuild -- or construct from scratch -- seven icebreakers and support ships at a cost between $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion, in a bid that officials said would not be answered.

"(Procurement Canada) does not comment on or respond to unsolicited proposals," said department spokeswoman Michele LaRose.

The Canadian Press outlined details of the bids last week, but the department did not issue a firm denial until late Friday, a hesitation that stoked uncertainty in both Nova Scotia and B.C., which are heavily invested in the success of the existing program. Premiers Stephen McNeil and Christie Clark condemned the Davie offers.

The Davie proposals were seen as a deliberate attempt to undermine Seaspan shipyards in Vancouver, which is gearing up to build many of the vessels offered in the unsolicited bids. The shipbuilding program establishes both Seaspan and Irving Shipbuilding Inc., in Halifax, as the go-to yards for federal work.

Blaney says both of those facilities, which he has visited, are at capacity and still years away from producing the planned ships.

He noted that the civilian shipbuilding program -- depending on class and size -- has ordered fewer vessels than needed for replacements.

Asked why the Conservatives didn't order more ships up front -- or move the process along faster -- Blaney said that the government was working within a tight fiscal envelope and did what it thought best.

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