Arguments for increased investment in the Joint Support Ship Project

The Government is presently debating whether to buy two or three of the Joint Support Ships, and how to resolve its bidding dilemma. Both teams, led respectively by SNC-Lavalin Profac Inc. and Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems Canada, were unable to deliver three ships for the amount stipulated by the government. Based on their cost estimates, the government has only allocated enough funds for two ships.

$2.1 billion dollars sounds like a lot of money for three ships, but based on the capabilities of these innovative new designs I argue that the ships are a bargain - we need to invest in the third ship and even the procurement of a fourth.

Unfortunately, most Canadians do not appreciate what these vessels will mean for Canada, nor do they understand the intricacies of the ship building industry and the economy of scale that can be obtained once the third keel has been laid. These two factors combined, make the procurement of a fourth vessel the best option for Canada.

To address the first point, these ships will replace the capabilities of our present fleet of supply ships. They enable the Canadian government to deploy our ships anywhere they are needed. When you consider the distant regions to which Canadian ships have been deployed in the past decade, present geopolitical instability and the co-dependence of nations for trade and security, the requirement for navy with global reach undeniable.

One must also consider the additional capabilities of the Joint Support Ship. Whether it be to transport troops and equipment, to serve as a command centre, or to provide medical facilities for our forces or for humanitarian assistance - the demand for these vessels will greatly exceed the demand for our present AOR ships.

Three ships will be able to deliver these capabilities about 90% of the time - with one ship available for deployment from one of the coasts. Four ships would have near-100% availability - with the majority of that time having a ship available on each coast. This would be of great advantage to Canada. Our government will have the capability to respond to crises with unprecedented reliability. Only getting two ships drops the availability to about 60%. These means 40% of the time, we will not have these options available to serve our needs.

To address the second point, the building of a fourth ship would be of great economic advantage to Canadians. Having already invested in the design of the ship and having improved the manufacturing process throughout three previous builds, building the fourth ship is much less expensive and adds greater value to the procurement package.

The country's investment in JSS creates opportunities for growth in our technology and manufacturing sectors. The economies of Ontario, Quebec and the Prairie region will all benefit, not just the coastal communities of BC and Atlantic Canada. JSS is a pan-Canadian project and Industrial Regional Benefits would come at time of economic uncertainty - protecting and even creating jobs from coast to coast. Building a fourth ship would only increase the impact of this investment.

The JSS project will be of great benefit to Canada, for our safety, security and economy. While three ships will meet our minimum requirements, a four-ship program ensures that JSS will be there when we need it. For both its strategic and economic benefits, this is an opportunity we shouldn't just watch sail by.