The Conservatives have just announced a multi-billion dollar upgrade to our navy. It appears that our aged 1960’s supply vessels are to be replaced with modern ones.

That is great news, especially for those who run our navy. It is also great news for those with their hands in our pockets, and I am not talking about the insurance company with the catchy commercial.

Stephen Harper promised Canadians during the last election campaign that there would be a new way of doing business in Ottawa. He stated that he would watch where the money was spent, how it was spent, and who spent it. Let’s hope that he was sincere.

The government is about to seek bids on three naval supply ships with a price tag of $2.1 billion, and an additional $800 million for maintenance for the next 20 years.

The names that are being bandied about the business world for consideration are to include ThyssenKrupp of Germany, BAE of London, Irving Shipbuilding of New Brunswick and SNC-Lavalin Profac of Montreal.

The Canadian companies are already a favored bunch of Ottawa, and were especially during the Liberal government’s last tenure. While I see nothing wrong with Canadian companies doing very well, I have a problem when that success is on my back and on yours.

SNC Lavalin, for example, has ‘donated’ close to three-quarters of a million dollars to the two biggest political parties in our country from 1993 to 2003 according to Elections Canada, with the Liberals receiving almost 80% of that money. Those amounts do not include any personal amounts by the executives of that corporation, nor does it include any monies paid to candidates or individual ridings. On the flip side, the same company has its tentacles in our post office, our defence department, and often receives generous overseas support from the Economic Development Bank of Canada, or EDC, in the form of loan guarantees to foreign governments. The donations to political causes seems to have had a wonderful rate of return.

Will the Conservative government ensure that the bidding process for these and all future government contracts are on the level, or are these powerful corporate behemoths simply too big for any political party to say no to? Also, will the government ensure that the amount of the contract is set in stone to prevent some of the enormous cost overruns that this country and its taxpayers have seen themselves saddled with? I would hate to see $2.1 billion snowball into something around $10 billion, a sight that we have seen in this nation many, many times.

It is about time that there was real oversight when it comes to the awarding of government contracts. Those contracts are a huge expenditure and a huge liability on the taxpayer.

The opposition, of course, has come forward with concerns that Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor has a conflict of interest in the deal, citing his past as a lobbyist for some of the very companies that will now vie for a piece of the new lucrative military spending that was announced. Total expenditures named are around $15 billion.

The response by the government was quick. As Defence Minister, Gordon O’Connor has no say as to who will be awarded the contracts for the three ships. That will be up to Public Works minister David Fortier once the Treasury Board approves the spending. You can be sure that the people running that department are not the same one’s who ran it during the Sponsorship debacle.

When all is said and done, it will be nice to see the Canadian Navy once again enter a period of sophistication to complement the courage and bravery of our seafaring sailors. They deserve nothing less.

I bet it’ll be a lot more fun swabbing the deck than bailing her out all the way home.

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