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EDITORIAL: Accountability? It’s the only ship that’s sailed

A worker at Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard
A worker at Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard documents information in the newly constructed Assembly and Ultra Halls. Photo by File photo /Postmedia

In light of the recent federal announcement of $463 million in funding to Irving Shipbuilding, several questions leap to mind.

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Does the federal government think taxpayers will continue to fork over hard-pressed cash at tax time, only to have it flushed down the gold-plated toilet? Are some voters deluded into consistently voting for a government that routinely showers billions of dollars on projects with very little accountability?

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Jay Goldberg and Franco Terrazzano of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) outlined in a Postmedia column last week the convoluted deal the federal government has with Irving Shipbuilding. In a recent news release, the government announced the $463-million payment to Irving as part of the ongoing National Shipbuilding Strategy, launched in 2010 by the Stephen Harper government.

Companies bidding on the original deal said they would have their own shipyards and wouldn’t leave taxpayers on the hook for upgrades to their facilities.

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The Auditor General now reports that after the selection, the shipyards negotiated changes that ensured they’d be compensated for capital investments, should the project be scrapped, delayed or reduced, setting a poor precedent for future deals.

In 2013, the AG estimated costs to acquire the new warships to be $26 billion, with maintenance and personnel costing $64 billion over 30 years. Ten years later, the cost to acquire the ships is $84 billion, with another $220 billion over 30 years for operations and maintenance.

The first ship was supposed to be delivered in early 2021, but that was later changed to 2025, the Ottawa Citizen reports. That paper now reports the defence ministry admits delivery of the first surface warship won’t take place until 2030 or 2031.

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National Post columnist John Ivison estimated Canada is paying significantly more for warships than the U.S., based on figures from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

“The U.S. paid a fixed price of about $1.66 billion (U.S.) a ship… Canada will pay up to $5.6 billion per ship,” Ivison said.

Meanwhile, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cuts corners on frontline military. Our our soldiers have had to buy their own helmets. We have a massive debt approaching $3 trillion. And we could really use some warships right now. So where are they? More importantly, where has our tax money gone?

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