The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

The federal Liberal government is adding a second heavy icebreaker to its long-term plans for the Canadian Coast Guard, a move that will likely head off a messy battle with Canada’s shipbuilding industry but could come at a cost to taxpayers.

Liberal cabinet ministers surprised many on Thursday as they announced the government it is tapping Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie to each build a new heavy icebreaker for the coast guard over the decade.

The decision represents the latest wrinkle in the federal government’s multibillion-dollar national shipbuilding plan and follows two years of questions — and intense lobbying from the shipyards — over Ottawa’s plans for the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker.

First announced by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2008 and awarded to Seaspan in October 2011, the Diefenbaker was one of seven ships to be built by the Vancouver shipyard through Ottawa’s multibillion-dollar shipbuilding plan.

The Diefenbaker was arguably the crown jewel of the package. Originally budgeted at $721 million, the icebreaker was supposed to be delivered by 2017 and replace the Coast Guard’s flagship, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.

But scheduling conflicts, technical problems and other issues scuttled the timeline and budget — which was increased to $1.3 billion in 2013 — before the Trudeau government quietly lifted the ship from Seaspan’s order book in August 2019.

While Seaspan said it was determined to win the vessel back, Davie was considered its chief competitor. After losing out of the competition for work in 2011, the rival yard has since charged back and is now in line to build six medium icebreakers for the Coast Guard.

The Quebec company insisted it — not Seaspan — was best placed to build the Diefenbaker, particularly given it is already in line to build the other six icebreakers. The two rivals subsequently engaged in fierce lobbying campaigns to secure the work.

In the end, Ottawa decided to take a page out of Oprah’s book and gave both of them a new icebreaker.

During a background briefing ahead of Thursday’s announcement, senior civil servants said the decision to build two heavy icebreakers reflected the changing conditions in Canada’s increasingly accessible Arctic regions.

They also defended the decision to split the work between the two shipyards, rather than give both icebreakers to one, as a prudent step given the pressing need to get the two vessels in the water as soon as possible.

The St-Laurent is currently scheduled to be retired in 2030 while the Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker, the CCGS Terry Fox, is set to follow suit in 2032.

Yet while the decision to split the work is also likely to end the at times bitter battle between Seaspan and Davie, it will almost certainly come with a hefty price tag.

The federal government has previously emphasized the savings that come with one shipyard working on multiple models of the same vessel, with the first vessel in a class costing much more and taking much longer than those that follow.

The officials declined on more than one occasion Thursday to provide any cost estimate or budget for the two icebreakers, saying such information would be provided at an appropriate time.

They did acknowledge, however, that the cost will exceed the previous $1.3-billion estimate for the Diefenbaker alone, which was first established in 2012 and has been under review for several years.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Vancouver

Just Posted

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

18-year-old skier Logan Leach follows his guide, Julien Petit, down an alpine track. The Lumby athlete who is visually impaired has been named to Alpine Canada’s Ski Team ahead of the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing. (Contributed)
Lumby’s Logan Leach named to national ski team

The 18-year-old visually impaired athlete officially joins Canada’s Para-Alpine roster ahead of Beijing 2022

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club is the first ski area in Canada to signify its commitment to ending working poverty, by paying all its staff and contracted workers a living wage. (Contributed)
Vernon ski area first in Canada to pay living wage

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club invests in staff and contracted workers

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

A young child has been taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Child struck by vehicle in downtown Vernon

The young child has been taken to hospital with unknown injuries following the incident on main street

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Most Read