HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s premier brushed aside suggestions Saturday that leading British defence companies could try to muscle in on lucrative contracts to build Canada’s new fleet of warships.
Darrell Dexter said he has no worries that BAE Systems will take away work from Canadian companies after a company official said it and the British government hold designs for several warships and would be willing to share them with Canada in some sort of arrangement.
Dexter has been vigorously lobbying the federal government to secure the lion’s share of the $33-billion contract for Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding Inc.
The premier said he was pleased to see Defence Minister Peter MacKay immediately rebuff any notion on Friday that the contracts would be shared with outside parties, and restate the position that it would be a Canadian bid process.
“If anything, it underlines the fact that the Irving Shipyards is the only completely Canadian-owned and operated yard in the bidding process,” Dexter told reporters after addressing the provincial NDP annual general meeting in Halifax.
“I believe the Irving bid really is Canada’s bid and this only underlines that.”
BAE’s overture comes in the face of the Conservative government’s repeated declarations that its one-year-old National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy will be a made-in-Canada enterprise.
The government has said the Canadian ships will be built in two yet-to-be selected Canadian shipyards. It went so far as to publicly reject the British government’s lobbying for a joint ship building venture earlier this year.
Bids are due by July 7, with a final decision not expected until September.
The BAE official suggested there might be a role for the company in helping to design the vessels.
Three other shipyards are competing for the business — Vancouver Shipyards, Seaway Marine and Industrial of St. Catharines, Ont., and Quebec’s Davie Yards in Levis.
Dexter said the Halifax Shipyard should be awarded the $25-billion contract to build about 20 large combat vessels because it would be good for Canada as a whole.
He said a winning Irving bid would contribute $1.5 billion to the national economy and create about 11,500 additional jobs in Nova Scotia during peak construction in 2020, along with 4,500 jobs outside the province.
Dexter repeated that winning the contract would be like hosting the Olympics every year for three decades.
If Irving fails to win the big contract, it could be in line to build non-combat vessels through a contract worth about $5 billion.
The Halifax Business Partnership released a study that said awarding the contract to Ontario would result in very little economic spinoffs outside that province. Awarding the contract to a Quebec or British Columbia shipyard would result in benefits for Ontario but not Atlantic Canada, the study said.