January 27, 2016 4:43 pm

Navy shipbuilding in midst of rough seas: Canadian Global Affairs Institute

HMCS Toronto heads out of the Halifax harbour on Jan.14, 2013.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
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An Alberta-based political think-tank says that in order for the Canadian Navy to escape the cycle of replacing a large number of ships at the same time, it’s vital the national shipbuilding program be given the funding to succeed.

The University of Calgary based Canadian Global Affairs Institute published The Royal Canadian Navy: Facing Rough Seas Wednesday outlining some of the huge challenges facing the navy.

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Author Dr. Rob Huebert says the biggest problem facing the Navy is the inability to enact a shipbuilding policy in a timely fashion.

Huebert says the current shipbuilding program, with Halifax’s Irving Shipyard building five or six Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels at a cost of $2.3 billion, is a good start.

The paper suggests the ever increasing costs associated with a modern navy will continue to be a problem for the military and politicians. The National Shipbuilding Strategy which is producing combat and non-combatant ships for the Navy and Coast Guard will help relieve that.

But there are questions about why it took eight years for the first steel to be cut for the vessels.

The policy paper released by the institute also looked at the mid-life refit for the Halifax-class frigates. All 12 are scheduled to undergo extensive refit to extend their working life to 2030 at a cost of about $4.3 billion. All the vessels are expected to complete the refit process by 2018.

Communication questioned

The paper also questions the previous Conservative government’s communications policy, saying it hobbled the ability of the navy to explain its role to Canadians.

The paper uses the example of the fire aboard the submarine HMCS Chicoutimi in 2004 and the grounding of HMCS Corner Brook in 2012 as examples of negative stories that affected public perception of the navy’s worth.

Huebert writes that the numerous successes of three submarines in service are rarely trumpeted.

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The strict communications policy hampered the ability of the navy to “sell” its projects to the public, he writes in the policy paper.

The Navy is rebuilding itself, but has faced many delays and challenges, Huebert writes. That’s resulted in a shortfall of ships and equipment.

The shipbuilding strategy is fundamental to correcting that, but Huebert warns it needs to be properly funded, and requires political support, for it to work.

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