Analysis | Ottawa and the uncontrollable spiral of military ships

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Analysis | Ottawa and the uncontrollable spiral of military ships

Crew members of HMCS Halifax

Those who predicted that future Canadian combat ships would cost twice as much as expected were laughed at in the late 2000s. Military procurement officials looked down on them.

To date, no minister has wanted to admit the loss of control of this program to build 15 destroyers for the Royal Canadian Navy.

Double the anticipated costs? How about triple?

The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Yves Giroux now estimates the development and acquisition of $84.5 billion. such a fleet. The initial budget for this project was 26.2 billion in 2008.

Delays of several years in design and construction, coupled with particularly high inflation in shipyards, largely explain this explosion. At the rate things are going, the last buildings built will be launched four years late. This is the most optimistic scenario.

The PBO report tabled in the Commons on Wednesday reveals another even more astronomical figure: 306 billion. It represents all the costs related to ships spread over 65 years, from their development to their dismantling. Long-term budgeting.

To our knowledge, the Ministry of Defense has never published a life cycle analysis, indicated Yves Giroux.

With such forecasts, it is easy to understand why National Defense and the government have been careful not to expose the full picture. It took the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates asking the PBO to look into it for answers.

Even before the PBO's report was released, Allan Williams , a former assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Defence, issued a warning.

“Going forward would bankrupt the department's capital and maintenance accounts for the next 30 years, more or less.”

—Allan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister at the Department of Defence

According to him, the costs of this program alone exceed the total funding available within of the Department of National Defense to acquire and maintain capital equipment for the combined army, navy and air force.

The risk is that the purchase of these ships will come at the expense of the rest of the acquisition projects, thus mortgaging military operations.

Which makes no sense, it's not to start the process over again. This program is unaffordable, added Allan Williams in a recent analysis.

For the Liberal government, the changing geopolitical context and the war in Ukraine have made it easier to justify new defense spending and convince Canadians of their usefulness. But Canada cannot afford everything.

Even if the slippages of the F-35 have marked the imagination, the issue of combat ships risks becoming another ball, more heavy even.

With this ship acquisition program, the Trudeau government has before it a boat that is taking on water. He will have to plug the breaches before it is he who is the one who suffers.

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