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Ottawa reaffirms role of Halifax Shipyard in National Shipbuilding Strategy after company ‘concerned’ over remarks

HMCS Harry DeWolf is expected to be launched at the Halifax Shipyard in 2018. Reynold Gregor/Global News

The federal government has reaffirmed the status of Irving’s Halifax Shipyard in the National Shipbuilding Strategy after the company issued a statement on Monday saying they were left “concerned” over remarks that a parliamentary secretary made last week.

At an event held on Friday to announce a new $610-million contract awarded to the Davie Shipyard in Lévis, Quebec City, Steven MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Service and Procurement Canada and MP for Gatineau, said that the Davie Shipyard will have opportunities to bid and win work under the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS).

The new contract allows Davie Shipyard to purchase and refit three existing icebreakers, all of which will be put into service by the Canadian Coast Guard.

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Irving said that the comments made by MacKinnon signalled a possible redirection of shipbuilding work out of Atlantic Canada and sought public assurances from the federal government that wasn’t the case.

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“While we have no interest in getting into a public squabble with our valued government customer, this issue is too important to the long-term strategic success of our shipyard and the economic wellbeing of our shipbuilders, and all Atlantic Canadians, to leave ambiguous and unsettled,” Irving said in a statement.

On Monday, the company seemed to get the reassurance it needed.

A spokesperson from the office of Carla Qualtraugh, the minister of public services and procurement, issued a statement on Tuesday, saying MacKinnon’s announcement “did not make any changes of the way forward for the National Shipbuilding Strategy.”

“The work at [Irving Shipbuilding Inc.] and Seaspan remains unchanged,” the statement read, referring to the ongoing work at the Seaspan Shipyard in Vancouver.

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Despite the protests by Irving, the NSS explicitly allows for other shipyards in Canada to compete for work from the federal government, a piece of information highlighted in the government’s statement.

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“As has always been the case under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, further opportunities exist for Canadian shipyards, including Davie, for small vessel construction, conversion work, maintenance, repair and refit contracts.”

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