Hold onto your sailor caps. Rumour is the Harper government will announce which lucky shipyard will be awarded the much-coveted $25 billion warship contract next week.
Three companies are vying for the contract to build the 20-navy-ship armada: Irving-owned Halifax shipyard, BC’s Seaspan Marine Corp. and Quebec’s Davie Yards. The runner-up will land an $8 billion contract to build navy supply ships and coast guard icebreakers---leaving one of them with bupkis.
Throughout the process Darrell Dexter’s government has been holding hands with the Irvings, spending over $100,000---they aren’t disclosing the exact figure---to stir up the PR campaign “Ships Start Here”, which heralds 30 years of economic spin-off with flashy interactiveness, free lawn signs and bus ads.
Because it’s doubtful that Ottawa’s deputy ministers making the decision ride the bus to Clayton Park, the ad campaign sparked criticism about what audience Dexter was playing to and why the public seems so eager to consume it.
In contrast to the Tories’ “Centre of Excellence” strategy, last spring the federal NDP campaigned on a defence plan that would spread out shipbuilding over a number of yards across the country, attempting to provide stable jobs in more than one place and break the boom and bust cycle in the industry.
But Dexter’s song is focused on driving the Nova Scotia economy and fetching us jobs---or at least, appearing to have tried. And if Irving wins the bid, look who’s the conquering hero.
Irving’s own track-record as a stable employer, however, is a bit spotty, making them a curious choice for an NDP-backed blitz. Rather than negotiate with the shipbuilders’ union, Irving simply shut down their Dartmouth shipyard in 2000. Leading up to the closure of the Saint John shipyard in 2003, the workers accused the Irvings union-busting as they were forced give up their bargaining rights, which the CAW president Buzz Hargrove described as a slap in the face of democracy and “one of the most crass anti-union moves by a company and a government”.
While visiting Province House this week, interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel reiterated that the ships money should be divided across country. Dexter retorted by putting it back on Ottawa, saying he’s just participating in Harper’s process.
The NSNDP have stepped into the spotlight of this bid with balletic prowess. And either way you shake it, Dexter walks away looking the victor.