Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Add $30M to Science Vessel Budget, Say Tories Lowballed Initial Estimate

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Add $30M to Science Vessel Budget, Say Tories Lowballed Initial Estimate

Article excerpt

Liberals say Tories lowballed shipbuilding budget

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NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. - The federal Liberals have announced another multimillion-dollar top-up for a key project under the national shipbuilding strategy after the former Conservative government lowballed the original budget, says the minister in charge.

"We inherited a bit of a mess," said Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote shortly after committing an additional $30 million to build an offshore oceanographic science vessel.

The project is over budget and behind deadline.

"We're working to try to fix that mess."

Foote made the announcement in front of hundreds of hard hat-toting workers gathered inside a Seaspan Shipyards hangar in North Vancouver on Monday.

The minister also promised $35 million for Seaspan to start work on three joint supply ships. Those vessels will deliver fuel, ammunition, spare parts, food and water to Canadian and allied vessels, allowing them to remain at sea for long periods.

The previous government relied on an "unrealistic" costing methodology that failed to take into account various price increases including inflation, Foote told reporters after the event.

This is the second cash infusion for the science vessel since the Conservatives' initial $108-million budget in 2008 was boosted by $35 million a year later. Monday's announcement puts the project's overall cost at more than $170 million, or 60 per cent over budget.

Conservative procurement critic Steven Blaney said the Liberals inherited a rigorous process that was recognized by the auditor general as being fair and competitive.

The new government is responsible to ensure those ships are delivered on time and at cost, he said.

"The Liberals cannot blame others for meeting the responsibility to ensure the best interests of the navy, of the coast guard and of the taxpayers. That's what we expect them to do," Blaney said.

"They are in charge. Now they have to step up to the plate."

During her announcement, Foote left the door open to the possibility of further cost overruns and downplayed the suggestion that Seaspan is to blame for the spiralling price tag. …

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