OTTAWA — The bureaucracy at National Defence helped scuttle two attempts by the Harper government to acquire helicopter landing ships over the last few years, documents show.
The most high-profile of the cases involved the sale by France of two Mistral-class warships, which had originally been built for Russia, but were on the auction block after the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information legislation show former defence minister Jason Kenney received conflicting advice from top civilian and military commanders, but decided to ignore it and made a last-minute, personal pitch to French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
A teleconference took place last June, a few months before President Francois Hollande’s government decided to sell the 21,000-tonne vessels to Egypt.
The former Conservative government was interested in acquiring landing ships, which can carry troops, equipment and helicopters, as a way to boost the Canadian military’s ability to respond quickly to trouble spots and humanitarian disasters around the world.
The documents reveal that, prior to discussions with the French, the Conservatives examined the idea of acquiring large, surplus British Bay-class amphibious ships — an idea defence bureaucrats also shot down.