Everyone knows, deep down, that pigs can't fly but we may discover that pork floats just fine even in Canada's Arctic waters.
Stephen Harper would have us believe that he's all about the Arctic. He can't get enough of the place. Visits every summer. He's especially fond of watching the local Rangers fire their WWII-vintage Lee Enfield rifles at imaginary Speznatz storm troopers, a powerful demonstration of Canadian sovereignty.
Steve will also tell us of the perils of Vlad Putin's bomber patrols and those Russkie's schemes to grab the oil, gas and mineral-rich Arctic seabed right out of our fingers. After all, that's why Sideshow Steve promised that Canada would deploy eight, or at least six, Arctic patrol ships. Real Made-in-Canada warships courtesy of Nova Scotia's Irving Shipyards.
Yes, that Irving. The same bunch that run most of the media plus the oil refineries, lumber mills and just about everything else that, to mega-millionaires, is worth owning in the Maritimes.
From the get go the Arctic patrol vessel programme has, in standard Harper style, been short on details and long on doublespeak. In May of last year there was a kerfuffle about then defence minister Peter MacKay's "hole in the ocean" when it was announced that the federal government would pay Irving $288-million just to design - not actually build - the patrol vessels.
What made the Harper government's largesse especially jaw dropping was that Canada was basically going to build ships (see above) along the lines of a Norwegian design which the feds had already purchased from the Norse for just $5-million. It got worse from there when it emerged that Norway had built the original, Svalbard (see below), for under $100-million all in, design included. It got even worse when it was learned that Denmark bought two similar patrol vessels in 2007 at $105-million for the pair.
|Norwegian "Svalbard" - Look familiar?|
When CBC went after MacKay/Ambrose brain trust for explanations, Rona Ambrose went full Michelle Bachmann and said speak to her officials who, in turn, couldn't explain it. ...Ambrose got completely spinney, babbling on about the new, Conservative way of designing ships.
"We are implementing what's called a design and then build strategy," the minister told CBC News.
Not surprisingly, Ambrose was unable to cite any other country that fails to design first and build later. At that point reporters were interrupted by government media handlers who cut off further questions.
Flash forward a year and a half. The numbers still don't add up. If anything, they're worse. The budget for those Arctic patrol vessels is now $3.1-billion. That's right, with a "B". And, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Jean-Denis Frechette, we won't be getting the promised 8-patrol vessels for that money. We won't even be getting six.
Frechette said that's only enough money to pay for four Arctic patrol ships - and even then, there's only a 50 per cent chance the vessels get built on that budget.
The PBO went on to warn that, if the project is delayed for more than a year, we might be lucky to get three patrol ships for that. In other words, about a billion apiece for the same ships everyone else can build for under $100-million per copy. That's ten times more, on the nose, than everyone else is paying for similar patrol ships.
This iteration of a government naturally disputes Frechette's conclusions, arguing he got the data all wrong. Frechette responded that any inaccuracies were the result of Harper & Company, true to form as we've seen so many times before, refusing to give the PBO information needed to do their work.
Now it turns out that, two days before Harper Enterprises inked the deal with Irving Shipyards, it received a consultants' report questioning Irving's numbers.
The report, by International Marine Consultants of Vancouver (IMC), ...commissioned by the Department of Public Works ...says the number of man-hours quoted by Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax was 'very high and considerably more than we would have expected for a shipbuilding program for vessels of the size and complexity of the [Arctic offshore patrol ships].'
To put the Arctic offshore patrol vessel fiasco into perspective, it might be helpful to compare costs with those being incurred by the US Navy for its state-of-the-art, armed to the teeth, littoral combat ships. While designed for different roles and, hence, not fully comparable, the USN is getting the LCS for under $470-million apiece and it's a genuine warship.
And now, a video depiction of the Harper government's amphibious defence spending policy: