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THE DEFENCE CONTRACT AS A POLITICAL FOOTBALL

THE DEFENCE CONTRACT AS A POLITICAL FOOTBALL

In this space in the last issue we commented on how the trade war with the US might impact future defence contracts and now, as we write this, Canada is in a new spat, this time a diplomatic one, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and, not surprisingly, the massive multi-billion dollar GDLS Canada contract to supply that country with military vehicles, has come under scrutiny and attack – from both sides.

But, the lesson to be learned here, we believe, is that politics should be left out of defence contracts altogether. The GDLS contract with Saudi Arabia is a good one for that company, for the regional economy, for Canada’s defence industry overall and by extension all Canadians. Sure, the Saudis have a poor human rights record, but if Canada doesn’t sell them the military vehicles someone else will so why shoot ourselves in the foot? If Canada is to have a viable defence industry, we should understand that by necessity Canadian companies NEED to export because Canada alone can simply not support a viable defence industry.

So, every time there is conflict with some country, let’s not automatically look to self flagellate by sacrificing one of our own most important industries. The government must ensure that Canada maintains a strong and vibrant defence industry for economic as well as national security reasons!

MV ASTERIX HITS THE DECKS RUNNING

For our Cover Story in this issue of CDR, we sent our intrepid Senior Staff Writer, Joetey Attariwala, fresh from his visit to the Farnborough Air Show (see his report on Canada at Farnborough in this issue), off to Hawaii where he was helicoptered out to Canada’s newest supply ship, MV Asterix, as it participated in a naval exercise in that area.

What we wanted to do was observe just how well the Resolve Class ship is carrying out its duties as it participated in RIMPAC, a joint naval exercise in the Pacific region. And, as you will read in Joetey’s incisive first-hand report, the ship performed admirably, often fuelling multiple ships from different navies at the same time. Over the course of his time sailing with the crew of MV Asterix, Joetey learned that the mixed civilian and naval crew worked seamlessly together and it was quite apparent that an AOR capability that was in danger of being lost after the demise of the Protecteur Class, is now alive and well.

From what we understand, MV Asterix is slated to work in the Pacific for the foreseeable future and, of course, Canada now has only the one supply ship so unfortunately, that leaves the entire Atlantic fleet without the AOR capability that would make it a truly blue water navy.

A MUCH NEEDED SUPPLY SHIP CAPABILITY

Of course, there have been calls for the navy to acquire an additional Resolve Class ship and operator, Federal Fleet, and builder of the vessel, Chantier Davie, were ready and able to provide the capability at a very reasonable cost but the government decided to take a pass, so now we must wait a number of years for the first JSS ship to be completed at Seaspan in Vancouver.

But, speaking of Seaspan, the on-going delays in ship production apparently, we recently learned, have resulted in the departure of former CEO, Brian Carter, so we thought it would perhaps be a good time to get a fresh perspective, from the brand new CEO, Mark Lamarre, about exactly how the company plans to provide Canada’s navy with the much needed JSS supply ship capability and at the same time keep the lid on the ballooning cost for these ships.

It was recently reported that in June of this year the government raised its cost estimate for the two JSS ships yet again – to $3.4 billion. But, Jean-Denis Fréchette, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, estimates an even higher price tag of $4.1 billion for the two supply ships!

That’s a lot of money for a couple of relatively unsophisticated supply ships. Remember, these are NOT combat ships, so why not save scarce defence budget dollars for the inevitable increases in the cost of CSC?

By the way, Seaspan’s new CEO is a veteran of the naval shipbuilding industry having most recently worked in Australia as CEO of ASC and before that at Bath Iron Works which does a lot of work for the US Navy. CDR plans to visit Seaspan in Vancouver soon and will talk to senior executives, including Lamarre, so look for an in-depth update on that very important program in an upcoming issue.

CANADA’S TOP 10 DEFENCE LOBBYISTS

Our feature, in this issue, on Canada’s Top 10 Defence Lobbyists is a new one for us and we hope it will show how, what many consider a shadowy industry, provides a vital service that does much more than offer back room introductions and access to government ministers.

We learned that the “government consultant” – a term that many in this profession seem to prefer – serves as a kind of tour guide through the governmental maze, offering a variety of useful services to companies looking to navigate through the bureaucracy.

And, by the way, the lobbyists profiled for this feature were either already known to us as leaders in this field or they were proposed to us by various industry players.

For this feature, CDR’s Ottawa correspondent, James Careless, interviewed ten of Ottawa’s top defence lobbyists and, perhaps surprisingly, all of them were extremely generous with their time and also forthcoming with their comments about what exactly it is they do.

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