Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Managing Expectations about Shipbuilding Progress

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Managing Expectations about Shipbuilding Progress

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Managing expectations about shipbuilding progress

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An editorial from the Halifax Chronicle Herald, published Aug. 22:

It's not a huge surprise that the euphoria that gripped many Nova Scotians in October, 2011 -- when Irving's Halifax shipyard won the right to negotiate a $25-billion deal with Ottawa to build decades worth of new naval combat ships -- reflected a certain amount of "irrational exuberance," to use former U.S. federal reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's famous phrase.

Two years ago, the economic climate was dismal. The magnitude of the opportunity -- which, make no mistake, is still formidable -- loomed. And with overly optimistic comments made at the time by Irving officials about cutting steel by 2013, the Ships Start Here announcement seemed to some to promise that nirvana lay just around the corner.

Reality, of course, has since set in.

By mid-2012, it had become clear that cutting steel for the first Arctic/offshore patrol vessels to be built in Halifax wouldn't happen until at least 2015. More recently, there have been announcements of layoffs and pending layoffs at Halifax Shipyard, as work winds down on existing contracts well before the anticipated ramp-up of employment thanks to the federal shipbuilding contract. Meanwhile, there have been reports the expected costs of building Canada's new combat ships are rising, even that the number of ships built could be reduced.

It would be equally a mistake, however, to believe these developments mean the shipbuilding contract's importance to Nova Scotia's economy should be discounted.

The message is more about managing expectations. In such a mammoth undertaking, there are inevitably bumps in the road.

Considering the massive infrastructure requirements at Halifax Shipyard, 2013 was always too optimistic a date to begin cutting steel. …

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