The British government has introduced its own National Shipbuilding Strategy to solve the very same problems that Canada is now facing with our own same-named 'Strategy'. Of particular interest to Canada, the UK is ending the shipbuilding monopolies and introducing distributed block construction whereby shipyards throughout the country will build sections of ships in order to expedite and lower the cost of shipbuilding programs.
The UK's new National Shipbuilding Strategy relies on ships built in modules: a) Takes the monopoly away from one shipbuilder (in this case, BAE) in order to create competition, cost savings and a sustainable shipbuilding industry .. b) Spreads the work around the country by building ship sections at all shipyards as is practiced on all successful international shipbuilding programs .. c) Aims to build a new class of frigate for GBP 250m (C$403m) each versus Canada's estimate for its new frigates at more than 6x the price at C$4.1 BILLION each .. The aim is to create an exportable product (ship) which can sustain shipyards in the future rather than creating a shipbuilding program which will rely on government paying ad nauseum resulting in a boom-bust period for the industry. Clearly, some lessons here for Canada. Developing ..
What a bi-coastal debacle Canada's 'national shipbuilding strategy' has become. First, the well-documented delays, staffing, partnership, oversight, and budgetary issues on the East Coast at Big Bad Jim Irving's Halifax lego-build factory. And, despite its otherwise successful secretive tactics out in Vancouver, we have the US-based Washington clan's Seaspan shipyards, which as Canada's leading defence industry publication labelled it, is the 'weak sister of Canadian shipbuilding', despite the Harper government inexplicably giving it $40 Million on election day. So, who can blame Seaspan for not allowing the probing media into its facilities for fear that a greater focus on its long delays and massive cost-overruns by Ottawa might lead cooler heads to prevail and consider nixing any and all future government contracts for that rinkydink facility. Still, the question begs, what does Seaspan have to hide .. and when will new procurement minister Carla Qualtrough start digging out in Vancouver, and for that matter, down in Halifax too ? Hopefully very soon, because billions of dollars and thousands of jobs are at stake. As now-benched Vice-Admiral Mark Norman is quoted in the book Charlie Foxtrot, "we know ships and what they need but we are no experts in procurement". In the meantime, the needs of our men and women who sail the oceans and seas of the world continue to twist in the wind.
Court documents from the Admiral Norman probe which were released to the public yesterday reveal that Treasury Board President and Nova Scotia Minister Scott Brison mysteriously found himself on a cabinet committee which he wasn't ordinarily on. He claims he didn't know why he found himself on it .. but what a co-incidence given that he had just been lobbied by the so-called 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' at Irving Shipyard to intervene in a contract being awarded to its fiercest competitor, the mighty Davie shipyard in Quebec. When asked why he was to be vice-chair of the cabinet committee meeting, he said he did not know and told RCMP officers to go and ask the Prime Minister. Makes you wonder why Vice-Admiral Norman decried 'political interference'.
Watch history in the making as Davie, Canada's largest shipbuilder, unveils the largest naval vessel ever to be delivered from a Canadian shipyard as Conservative and Liberal MPs call for a second Resolve naval support ship following the major success of Davie, having been the only Canadian shipyard to actually deliver a ship since the NSPS was launched.
Quick, someone page Pat Finn & Kevin McCoy at Daly's in the Westin, pronto ! Is it true that none of the prime bidders are willing to bid ? With expected costs spiraling from $21 Billion to $62 billion, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the vastly over-budget shipbuilding program at Irving seems on the brink of collapse, and that may not be a bad thing, given the schmozzle it has become. 'Not ready for prime time', as one industry expert aptly labelled it. After all, (short of working in the bilge at St. John's Shipbuilding three decades ago), why on earth contract 'Big Bad Jim' Irving to build a warship when he's never built one in his life ? Heck, even 'Big Bad Jim' Irving doesn't contract 'Big Bad Jim' Irving to build his own ships. And what incentive does 'Big Bad Jim' have to hold the line on costs when his company stands to make millions more with each increase in budget fueled by uncontrollable cost overruns ? Will Justin Trudeau do all taxpayers a favour and put Irving and its over-priced shipbuilding program out of its (and our) misery ? If the losers (Davie Shipyard) can deliver Canada's largest-ever naval ship in under two years, why has the National Shipbuilding Strategy failed to deliver a single ship after 6 years !? Is it because Trudeau & Co has let Irving do the government's job ? Can we be sure that neither Scott Brison or Dominic Leblanc are meddling in what should otherwise be an obvious decision to scrap the Irving project ? The clock is ticking .. the Navy needs ships .. taxpayers want answers .. and the facts are speaking for themselves.
Davie unveils entire ship, Irving rolls out some steel modules
Nowhere has the distinction between two Canadian shipyards been so drastically defined as it is this week. In two days, Davie Shipyard will unveil the largest naval ship ever built in Canada. It is a remarkable - and historic - achievement for the legendary Quebec shipyard .. Meanwhile, the opportunists at Irving Shipbuilding, which was tasked to build ships way-y-y-y back in 2011, finally managed a couple days ago to roll out some steel modules which will one day form part of the ships which will cost Canadian taxpayers almost 5 times the cost of what other countries have built similar ships for. The above selfie shows 'Big Bad Jim' Irving and toothy cheese-eating-grin'd sidekick Kevin McCoy comfy-cosy with Treasury Board President Scott Brison and the indefatigable Pat Finn, of all people, the longtime DND Assistant deputy-minister for material purchases, best known for bobbing and weaving around myriad departmental procurement debacles over the years the way Mohammed Ali used to float around the ring in his heyday. Pat's the one who's peering over Big Bad Jim's left shoulder. Irving, btw, will make billions on the deal with its 'overhead & profit' payout. Billions. And the higher the cost-overruns (the PBO's recent warnings suggested Canada's 'shipbuilding strategy' is budget-busting towards $61 Billion), the more money to be made on the deal. The mind boggles. Interesting that while touting the miracle-like benefits of his Halifax shipyard to fawning politicians and beleaguered Canadian taxpayers, Jim instead has his own shipbuilding needs satisfied by foreign shipyards located outside Canada. Curiously, embattled Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, a Canadian hero, is nowhere to be seen in this 'boys only' high-five'r. Meanwhile, the parliamentary press gallery aligns itself to wonder what colour Justin's socks are today.
Time to yank shambolic management team & hit reset button on out-of-control Navy frigate program .. costs soar toward $60 Billion with no restraint in sight .. PBO's dire warnings .. bidder complaints, risk of pullout .. incomprehensible cloak of secrecy .. giveaway jump-the-queue citizenships for overseas foreign workers who come take Canadian jobs .. uncontrolled delays .. ridiculous management structure overseen by someone who has never built a frigate ..
Paging Scott Brison .. Paging Dominic LeBlanc ..
IRVING: DO AS WE SAY, NOT AS WE DO ?
Not only is it the single largest sole-source government procurement project in the history of Canada, but it is also the most curious government deal ever. A massive blank-cheque frigates deal virtually handed over without any semblance of competition to Big Bad Jim Irving, a guy who in his lifetime has not built one single frigate. Not one. 'A mess, poorly structured', one newspaper said. Soaring costs, the PBO warned. As much as 5 times more than what other countries paid for their frigates, Wikipedia suggests. Maybe it really is high time that Irving offered open-transparency on the mega-billion dollar sole-source frigate deal he inked with the Canadian government, one that has yet to produce a single Canadian frigate despite hundreds of millions of tax dollars poured into his Halifax facility. Here are a couple lob ball asks. Pug, Murray, Andy, Bob/Steve, Bruce, Andrea can all follow up in due course .. First, with hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of work from coast-to-coast, why are Jim Irving's minions today - this very day - wooing potential workers at the Hotel Vega in Galati, Romania, of all places ? That's right, Romania. First, his team went to Poland mooching for workers, next to Spain, and then to Australia .. and now Romania. What the heck, can't Jim find Canadians to fill these jobs ? Oh, wait, in some instances Irving is dangling Canadian citizenship to foreign workers who take the bait. A nifty trick, creating Canadian jobs by turning foreign workers into Canadians .. Second, and here's a head-scratcher given Irving's claim he provides world-class shipbuilding, but if Jim Irving's Halifax shipyard is such a perfect cost-effective Canadian-jobs-creating place for the Canadian government to have its much-needed Navy ships built, why on Earth is Jim Irving building his own ships (for Atlantic Towing) in .. yes, wait for it .. Romania ?
'The RCMP alleges that an employee in the federal government's procurement department, one who has no links to the military's now-suspended former second-in-command, leaked sensitive information about Canada's troubled shipbuilding program. The individual works at Public Services and Procurement Canada .. has not been charged with any offence and remains on the job in Ottawa.'
Is it Justin & the PMO, or is it Big Bad Jim & his minions ?
WHO'S RUNNING THIS COUNTRY ?
Is it the most incredibly fantastic 'gee-wow' value-laden DND purchase of all time, or is it one of the most mind-bogglingly stoopid boondoggles in the history of Canada ? Either way, the numbers are staggering. The math is suspect at best, says the PBO. And the question begs, why on earth would a threadbare Trudeau government pulled at the seams by urgent growing needs in health care, infrastructure, old-age income security, climate, and ballooning debt-service want to pay billions per frigate
('the cost is likely closer to $4.1 BILLION') to unrepentant East coast billionaire Jim Irving when myriad countries around the globe were realistically content to pay as little as 1/10 what Irving is demanding Canadian taxpayers fork over. To wit, US littoral combat ship: USD $ 478 MILLION per ship .. German F-125 class frigate: Eur 650 MILLION per ship .. French FREMM frigate: Eur 670 MILLION per ship .. Italian FREMM frigate: Eur 598 MILLION per ship .. China Type 054A Surface Combatant: $ 348 MILLION per ship. And, all kidding aside,
who's to say that betting the farm (& fish factory & lobster hatchery) on a bunch of frigates in this modern era of cyber-warfare is what's needed to fight the enemies of today and tomorrow ? One thing is clear, Team Trudeau needs a brutally serious rethink of the Harper-era Irving ships program. Pronto .. And still not clear what to do, Gerry & Co ? Here is your 5-step go-to game plan: 1) pull the plug on the $60 BILLION untested & unproven Irving ships plan, 2) get rid of pliable in-over-his-head Defence Minister Harj 'The Architect' Sajjan, 3) throw out last week's fiction-laced 'Defence Policy Review', 4) bring in fresh thinking to develop a much-needed modern defence plan that marries our very real budget limitations to the very real dangers of a digital world, 5) buy Bourque a tankard of ale at the nearest Clocktower BrewPub as a gesture of thanks from a grateful nation for saving taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.
Shed a tear for the public treasury on a day when Reuters reports Canada has posted a $22 Billion deficit. A public treasury threadbare at best. A public treasury that demands value for money on all massive government procurement projects. Yet, once again, 'Big Bad Jim' Irving's multi-billion dollar shipbuilding program has been rocked by yet another delay. Hard to believe there will be absolutely no cost implications. But who know what the actual costs on this crazy project will be at the end of the day. Irving ain't divulging, neither is Trudeau. So much for the much-vaunted concept of transparency. This time the delay comes as a result of the controversial decision by the government in letting Irving manage the competition for the design of the ship ('NatPost: Canadian warship project a mess'). With Irving's costs now spiraling from $26 BILLION to a whopping $40 BILLION (almost twice Canada's national deficit !) - - and with whistleblower & national hero Vice-Admiral Mark Norman left twisting in the wind (CBC) - the question is whether Justin Trudeau will instruct his embattled DND Minister Harjit Sajjan to finally trash the entire program in his forthcoming 'Defence Policy Review', which by some curious twist of fate is now expected to focus on personnel instead of equipment (CBC), of all things. Or will Treasury Board President Scott Brison work to make sure that doesn't happen ? And why has everyone's favourite yappy pal 'Big Bad Jim' Irving suddenly clammed up and failed to respond to the critically-important questions posed to him in our letter the other day ? Jim, where are you ? Bermuda ? Transparency, please ! Developing ..
After the Senate's damning report earlier this week on the failing state of the government's National Shipbuilding Strategy, now defence think-tank MacKenzie Institute has issued a report slamming the government's shipbuilding strategy as failing to deliver and urging the government to "face up to the fact" that Canada's shipbuilding monopoly isn't delivering ships or value for the Canadian taxpayer. Report urges opening the monopoly to competition from other shipbuilders.
What a sweetheart deal ! DND suddenly finds an extra $1.3 billion dollars ?!?!
Psst, hey pal, who secretly authorized massive 'last minute' budget bump ? Where did the extra $ 1.3 billion suddenly materialize from ? How could a tightly-scoped and meticulously detailed $3.4 billion project miraculously balloon 38% to a $4.7 billion project ? Why did DND fail to alert all bidders ? Was this mission-critical project run by the Keystone Cops ? Notionally speaking, another sad Harj-y-Bargy production at DND ..
Defence industry questions what's wrong about Admiral calling BS on political meddling by Irving Shipbuilding as 'give the man a medal' is whispered throughout the streets of Ottawa. The saga continues as the defence industry steps up to defend Norman after it was revealed that the whistleblower Admiral referred to monopoly-holders Irving Shipbuilding as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and "greedy, self-serving assholes" when they recruited Treasury Board Minister Scott Brison & Co to do their dirty work. Other sources have suggested that the decorated and well-respected Admiral's treatment could lead to a full mutiny in the navy. Add that to the Army's rebellion over Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan's over-enthusiastic claims last week (see below). And don't forget the Air Force's grumbling over Trudeau's decision to cancel the F35 program .. well you couldn't do much more to beat the men and women of the Canadian Forces down. Trudeau's gov't will need some very good news this week in its Defence Policy Review about how they are going to be buying equipment differently.
As rumours swirl about, is Sajjan about to get Trudeau's infamous cold-shoulder ?
IS HARJ SAJJAN ABOUT TO GET DUMPED ?
Canada's hapless National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has become an international embarrassment with reports of his indiscretions now spanning the globe. (Witness a sampling of media coverage from the UK, New Delhi, Hong Kong, & even Dayton, Ohio.) It's the last thing media-savvy Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would want to tarnish his image on the world stage. One can imagine Sophie giving him an earful on the home-front too. So, it is turning into quite the Harj-y bargy in Official Ottawa, to say the least. With Canadian media (both Postmedia and the Globe & Mail were apoplectic) and opposition politicians equally in hot pursuit of Harj's hide, Bourque has learned from impeccable sources extremely close to the Prime Minister speaking on condition of anonymity that Sajjan may be about to get dumped from his portfolio. In fact, Bourque was told that Sajjan may not only lose the Defence gig, but may find himself out of Cabinet altogether. If so, look for Harj to either get an Ambassadorship (India ? Afghanistan ?) or get bumped out to the Senate the way his predecessor Art Eggleton got outriggered years ago. Coincidentally, there is a BC Senate vacancy opening up in 12 months time, sufficient to launder Harj on the backbenches long enough for people to put his current travails behind him. Add to that scenario a not insignificant altruistic piece of scuttlebutt passed along to this scribbler Monday afternoon in a chance meeting outside a well-known nosheria one mere block from Parliament Hill. Yes, curious passers-by, that was Bourque in the yellow slicker talking with you-know-who on the street corner. Indeed, while nearby meal-eaters none the wiser blissfully wolfed down two-inch-thick smoked meat sandwiches and garlicky dill pickle spears, it was confirmed to Bourque that stand-up Ottawa MP Andrew Leslie is likely to succeed 'Harj' at Defence. Long-tooths will recall that Leslie is a well-respected retired General and former Chief of the Army, no less. He's also an excellent communicator and his appointment would be welcome news both to members of the military and to Canada's vast military complex, which for years has found itself the poster-child whipping boy to successive governments. That aside, it should be noted there is a bit of backroom drama being played out by certain powerful commercial interests who would instead like to see one of their favs as next DND honcho for reasons aligned with their own vested military procurement motives. And who would they like to see instead of Leslie ? None other than Scott Brison and/or Dominic LeBlanc, of all people. Yes, that same Dominic LeBlanc who, of course, is almost a virtual lock-in as Canada's next Governor General. So as you can imagine, there is much at stake, and not just one ineffective BC MP's Cabinet position. But any movement on this front will likely boil down to a combo of Sajjan's own sense of honour & duty and the Opposition's dogged ability to keep up the pressure on the floor of the House of Commons. Whether our friends Tom Mulcair & Rona Ambrose realize it or not, they have Justin Trudeau and his omnipotent druid Gerry Butts over a barrel on this one. Developing ..
annual event originally set up for veterans of Afghanistan
The truth finally begins to emerge on no-nonsense, taxpayer's hero Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, DND's 2nd-in-command who continually stood up to political interference by notorious closed-door lobbyist 'Big Bad Jim' Irving (and btw, 'Big Bad Jim', for God's sake, why so much lobbying ?), whose team he endearingly refers to as the 'Horsemen of the Apocalypse' in now un-redacted court papers. Judge states he can't understand why Irving thought the already-awarded contract was "up for grabs" and rules that Norman's alleged actions are "hardly the stuff of stigma or moral turpitude", and at its worst, all Norman was doing was "trying to keep a contractual relationship together so the country might get itself a badly needed supply ship" .. so whose heads should really be rolling in yet another Irving shipbuilding debacle ? It certainly says something when the head of the Navy refers to self-proclaimed 'Canada's Shipbuilders' as "greedy .. self-serving .. assholes". (Yes, it's all here in the judge's ruling) Admiral Mark Norman for next Prime Minister .. or the Order of Canada at least ?
While Canada left holding the back with their derelict dud subs ..
After Jim Irving "meddled in the decision", judge says that the only "potential allegation against Vice-Admiral Norman is that he was trying to keep a contractual relationship together so that the country might get itself a badly needed supply ship". Judge adds that he can't understand why some in the shipbuilding industry came to believe that the already awarded contract was "up for grabs" just because of a change in government. Having read the sealed evidence, Justice Phillips says there are "no smoking guns". More ..
They call it 'sustainment support', a hodge-podge of after-sale up-sells & scope-creeps. Opaque stuff like 'contractor logistics support' and 'in-country field services support' .. not to mention 'aircraft maintenance, contractor engineering & logistics support services, publications & technical documentation' .. plus 'major modification & retrofit kits support, and technical support'. Wait, there's more, yes, 'support equipment, alternate mission equipment, software support, spares, personnel training and training equipment'. Yup, a quarter-billion dollar's worth of nifty doo-dads and neat-o's, give or take a few dozen million dollars with the currency exchange rate ups and downs. The deal is so big and so complex, it actually needs US Gov't sign-off before it can be ok'd. Both Boeing & Lockheed are in on the gig, btw.
Rumours have been swirling for weeks. But after Big Jim Irving threw his weight at cabinet minister cronies to delay a competitor's contract, did Vice-Admiral Mark Norman blow the whistle on political meddling only to then get 'caught in the crossfire' ? Now top Canadian political scientist Michael Byers is wondering if Norman was 'removed b/c Liberal gov't embarrassed 'by questions about Irving's influence in Ottawa'.
As potential sub-contractors in the sole-source open-budgeted sweetheart deal rightly seek to delay the bidding process, now 'concerns that the federal government seriously misjudged on the amount of money needed to build the Canadian Surface Combatants'. Insiders, activists, and innocent bystanders alike will be right to scratch their heads in wonder or shake it in blind rage if we are seeing yet another massive military procurement that needs to be scrapped and re-started from the beginning. Developing ..