Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicks Liberal government away from $ 100 million contract under which a Chinese state shipyard will build a passenger ferry for a federal crown corporation, a deal the Conservative Party is committing to to be canceled if elected.
The Globe and Mail reported on Wednesday that a huge Chinese state-owned shipyard is building a 1,000-passenger ferry that Marine Atlantic Inc. will charter over objections from Canada’s shipbuilding industry and at a time when two Canadians spent 990 days in China. prisons as victims of what Ottawa has called “hostage diplomacy”.
At an election event in Vancouver, Trudeau said he was troubled by the deal, but declined to say whether his government would cancel it.
“We are concerned about this situation,” Trudeau said. He added that his goal is for federal government purchases to “align with our values.”
Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus, however, said his party led by Erin O’Toole would cancel the contract.
“This is unacceptable, and a Conservative government will immediately cancel the agreement and make sure the ferry is built in Canada,” he said.
At the end of July, Marine Atlantic awarded a five-year, $ 100 million contract to charter a ferry to the Swedish company Stena North Sea Ltd. The company has contracted out the construction of the 200-meter vessel to China Merchants Industry’s Jinling Shipyard for delivery in 2024.
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The Crown corporation has the option of purchasing the vessel from Stena North Sea at the end of the five-year charter. The ferry will operate between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The heavily subsidized CMI has also swept up other Canadian companies. CMI’s Jinling Shipyard recently won a $ 20 million contract to supply the Northwest Territories with four double-hull barges.
Parliament has declared that China has committed genocide against its Uyghur Muslim minority, and the federal government has accused Beijing of “hostage diplomacy” by jailing Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on what it says are false accusations of ‘spying.
The Trudeau government said this year that it had changed its way of dealing with China because of Beijing’s more assertive authoritarianism and coercive diplomacy.
Marine Atlantic reports to Parliament through the Minister of Transport, who also appoints the members of the board of directors of the Crown corporation. A spokesman for Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the minister had played no role in the green light of the ferry contract. “The minister did not approve the contract. … The minister has been advised by the department that the procurement process has ended, ”said Shane McCloskey, Director of Policy for Mr. Alghabra, in an emailed statement.
Trudeau tried on Wednesday to blame former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, absent for more than five years, saying his predecessor should have made his 2010 national shipbuilding strategy a requirement for shipping companies. State of purchasing Canadian products. ships built.
Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet told a press conference on a Quebec City promenade in front of the Davie shipyard in Lévis that it is disturbing that such work is being sent overseas. The Bloc has often argued that Davie, one of Canada’s top three shipyards, has been unfairly overlooked for federal shipbuilding contracts.
“In general, when a given territory has three shipyards – of which the largest, the most efficient, the most prestigious and the most battered is in [the Quebec City region] – it’s always embarrassing to give these contracts abroad ”, declared Mr. Blanchet.
Alex Vicefield, president and CEO of the Inocea Group, owner of the Davie shipyard, said there was no reason to build the passenger ferry outside of Canada.
“In fact, building this ferry would be simpler than any of the big programs Davie has undertaken in the past nine years,” he said. “Obviously, the same goes for barges, which are very basic structures. “
Colin Cooke, president of the Canadian Maritime and Shipbuilding Industries Association, told The Globe in comments published Wednesday that he found it “very difficult to bear” that the federal contract was approved when Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor are incarcerated in China. They spent 990 days in Chinese prisons with the lights on 24 hours a day.
China seized Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor in December 2018, shortly after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., was arrested in Canada on a US extradition warrant for allegations of bank fraud linked to violations of US sanctions against Iran.
Cooke also questioned whether Marine Atlantic’s competitive procurement process was fair, as Stena North Sea can take advantage of China’s heavily subsidized shipping industry to cut costs. He said that a cost effective way could have been found to build the ferry to Canada.
“The ships could be built from stern to stern by Canadian facilities, by Canadian workers for Canadian use,” Cooke said. “We have the design know-how. We manufacture the components and we have the sites.
The only part of the ferry that would need to be purchased outside of Canada would be the engines, although Cooke said they could be sourced from the United States, Europe and Japan.
Marine Atlantic spokesperson Tara Laing said the ferry contract was open to domestic and international bidders and overseen by an independent fairness monitor. Ms Laing said that a Chinese state-owned conglomerate would build the ship was not a factor in the state company’s decision.
“Ownership of the shipyard selected by Stena was not factored into the procurement process,” Ms. Laing said in an emailed statement.
CMI is one of several Chinese state-owned companies that increasingly dominate the global shipping industry. China controls the world’s second largest maritime fleet in terms of gross tonnes and has built more than a third of the world’s ships.
Mr Blanchet said Canada will still have to trade with China, but find a way to show that it is not helpless – and that Mr Trudeau has failed at that.
“We will not stop trading with China. The little Canada puppy won’t hurt the big Chinese bear – that won’t happen, ”he said. “And politically, Canada must demonstrate that it is not that weak compared to the Chinese giant, but Mr. Trudeau has been totally ineffective in demonstrating it. “
With a report from Campbell Clark
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