PSPC site outdated

Out of Date

Dr. Ann Griffiths, 11 January 2021.

I have been trying to find out what is happening with the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS). As a multi-billion dollar government program, you would think that this would mean government attention and publicly available information about it. You would be wrong.

When I googled National Shipbuilding Strategy, I was taken to the website of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), the department responsible for shepherding the program. On 7 January 2021 when I looked, here’s what I saw. If you clicked on “About the NSS,” you see that it hasn’t been updated since 13 November 2019. If you look in the NSS section “Latest News Releases,” there is only one that mentions the NSS in the year of 2020. In the NSS section “Latest Speeches and Technical Briefings,” the most recent one is 8 December 2017 (“Launch of the First Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel”). Perhaps PSPC might want to update that now that all three of the OFSVs have been delivered. (At least the Canadian Coast Guard website mentions that CCGS Sir John Franklin (delivered 27 June 2019), CCGS Capt Jacques Cartier (delivered 29 November 2019) and CCGS John Cabot (delivered 9 October 2020) have been built and delivered.) Back to the PSPC website, in the section “Statements” the most recent are 26 August 2019 (“Government of Canada amends invitation to qualify for third National Shipbuilding Strategy shipyard”) and 5 December 2017 (“Update on the Canadian Surface Combatant Request for Proposals”).

But perhaps I’m being too hard on PSPC – what do they care about a bunch of boring ships! Searching the Department of National Defence website for the NSS just takes you back to the PSPC website. So, I went to the Royal Canadian Navy website. In the section on the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships, the latest news release was dated 31 July 2020 (“First Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship Delivered”) which is not that long ago. However, there was nothing about the teething issues that the first AOPS has experienced, or the trials, or anything really. And when I tried to find out how construction of the second AOPS, which was supposed to have been delivered to the RCN in December 2020, is doing, the most recent statement is “Name of HMCS Margaret Brooke Announced,” dated 1 May 2017. The pages about the Canadian Surface Combatant and the Joint Support Ships have been updated more recently (4 December 2020 and 16 June 2020 respectively).

Perhaps expecting up-to-date information from a government website is too much to ask. How about the shipbuilders? The Irving website is more up-to-date than the RCN and PSPC websites re the NSS. It includes a press release about the future HMCS Margaret Brooke (“Major milestones for future HMCS Margaret Brooke with first fuel and radar installation”) dated 15 September 2020, but still no information about the possible date of handover to the RCN. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, so perhaps Irving is shut down – who knows because there is no mention of that on the website. But we know that Irving is working because there are media reports in late 2020 about Irving executives getting exemptions to Nova Scotia quarantines re travel to the United States (and these exemptions being removed after a public outcry) (Halifax Chronicle-Herald, “Nova Scotia revokes quarantine exemption for Irving executives after outcry”), and a labour disruption because of workers coming from Quebec, contrary to public health guidelines (Global News, “Irving Shipbuilding issued verbal order after labour department finds walkoff had valid reason”). Perhaps Seaspan is more forthcoming. Seaspan’s most recent press release re the NSS is “Seaspan Shipyards Delivers CCGS John Cabot, Completing First Class of Ships under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy,” dated 9 October 2020. There are no updates about the JSS. Surprisingly, Seaspan hasn’t even updated the photos on its website of the Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels – oddly because the ships are done and delivered, and you’d think that Seaspan would want to publicize that.

What’s my point? My point is that finding out information about a major government program shouldn’t be this hard. What’s going on with the CSC – in November 2020 the government posted a graphic illustrating the bells and whistles the ships will have, but other than that what’s happening? I don’t know. When will AOPS #2 be handed over to the RCN? I don’t know. Is progress being made on the JSS? I don’t know. What’s happening with the heavy icebreaker? Who knows. The government promised to be transparent about the program – it’s costing taxpayers a lot of money, after all. This is not good enough. Why not provide regular updates – even to tell us that nothing is happening. Otherwise we’re left in the dark. And, please, if updates are provided, can they not be written in bureaucratic bafflegab! That would be great thanks.

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