Trade tribunal investigating allegation of bias in search for third shipyard
OTTAWA—A trade tribunal is investigating the federal government’s plan to add a third shipyard to its multibillion-dollar shipbuilding strategy over allegations the process is rigged in favour of a Quebec shipyard.
Heddle Marine Services of Hamilton, Ont., first asked the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to launch an investigation last month, alleging some requirements needed to qualify for consideration seemed aimed at disqualifying all contenders except Quebec’s Chantier Davie.
While the federal government later amended the requirements, Heddle nonetheless pushed ahead with its complaint and the tribunal confirms in a letter to the Ontario shipyard that it is looking into the matter.
One question, however, is how far the tribunal will be able to delve into the case as the federal Liberals recently restricted the tribunal’s ability to review big-ticket government purchases that it deems to be of importance to national security.
While the tribunal can’t say if the Liberals properly invoked the national security exemption, the government can wait until just before a contract is awarded to make such a designation and scuttle any review.
The third yard will join Halifax’s Irving Shipbuilding and Seaspan Marine in Vancouver in the federal government’s massive naval procurement process known as the national shipbuilding strategy, and will be tasked with building six new icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard.