Get to bottom of sub fiasco

Anyone who bought a second-hand car that rarely worked and was always in the shop would reasonably be demanding a refund or at least an explanation from the vendor.

Anyone who bought a second-hand car that rarely worked and was always in the shop would reasonably be demanding a refund or at least an explanation from the vendor.

They would certainly be angry.

For some reason, however, the Canadian navy seems strangely untroubled by the fact it bought four rust-bucket submarines from the British navy, none of which has seen significant operational duty since they were acquired for the bargain price of $890 million in 1998.

One of them, HMCS Chicoutimi, has been in dry dock undergoing repairs since it caught fire on its maiden voyage from Britain to Canada in 2004.

In fact, the welds on all four boats were found to be defective before they even left Britain.

In the case of the Chicoutimi, the internal steelwork was corroded, hull valves were cracked and the air turbine pumps were defective.

HMCS Victoria spent at least six years in dry dock, while Corner Brook saw only 81 days of active service between 2006 and 2008.

HMCS Windsor spent just 332 days at sea over the last 10 years because of various defects and overhauls.

But for the last year, it has been unable to dive too deeply because of problems with rust, according to documents The Canadian Press obtained under federal access-to-information legislation.

It could cost $5 million to repair the damage, so the navy has decided to grind the corroded areas and cover them with primer.

It’s not clear how or why Canada ended up with four lemons, although the fact the diesel-powered boats were mothballed for years prior to sale is a factor.

It was left to the Canadian navy to overhaul the subs and get them ready for service.

They were fixer-uppers, but it doesn’t look like Defence Department officials fully understood their poor condition and how much repair work would be needed.

Submarines may have seemed like a luxury item at one time for a country like Canada, but they have become increasingly important in the new geopolitical context. They are ideally suited, for example, to performing tasks involving perimeter security, which is rising in importance as a bilateral issue with the United States.

But they must be reliable and available if they are to be any good.

In the meantime, the Department of National Defence needs to get to the bottom of how Canada ended up with four clunkers.

We’ll never get our money back, but the public deserves a more fulsome explanation on what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future.

An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press.