NDP calls for better shipbuilding plan

Steve Bartlett
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Workers at Newdock prepare to install a new propeller on one of the Maersk offshore supply ships that was in drydock for refit. File photo

As she watched news of Halifax being awarded a $25-billion contract to build combat ships Wed-nesday, Lorraine Michael says she was struck by Nova Scotia's pride in its shipbuilders.

The NDP leader then found herself discouraged by what's happening here.

"I was ashamed to be an elected person here in Newfoundland and Labrador, knowing that we don't hear that kind of talk from the government here about their pride in the skilled workers that we have in the shipbuilding industry and the plans they have to help further that (industry) as the government of Nova Scotia hopes to," she said.

Newfoundland and Labrador has been developing a new shipbuilding policy, but government is being tight-lipped about it.

A recent Telegram access to information request on the strategy turned up few details, other than the fact a "Draft Discussion Paper on Shipbuilding Capacity/Opportunities" was completed last November.

And a request this week for an interview with Susan Sullivan, minister of innovation, trade and rural development, to discuss the policy was unsuccessful.

A spokesman said there was nothing further to report.

"The work that was completed was with respect to the specific capacities of Newfoundland and Labrador firms," he wrote in an email. "It is therefore propriety information and cannot be shared."

Michael has also had little luck getting details on shipbuilding out of the government.

She said she's been asking about the third and fourth provincial ferries that were to be built at the Marystown shipyard as part of a four-vessel plan.

"I really do not understand why the government is not going with the plan to have the third and fourth ferry built in Marystown," she said. "They have refused to answer that question."

"I have asked this question in July; where is the plan for the Marystown shipyard, where is the plan for ferries number three and four, why they aren't being built now?" said Michael.

"There's absolutely no reason in my mind why the third ferry is not already on the block and being worked on. The government, as with many other things, just does not seem to have plans."

The shipbuilding plan in the works does not focus on attracting outside contracts to yards in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Innovation, Trade and Rural Development spokesman explained any shipbuilding policy is related to the province's strategy to replace its ferries, an initiative that received close to $40 million in this year's provincial budget.

"It's a policy that's been widely communicated," he said, noting it was most recently publicized in June when government sought expressions of interest from the industry to construct six new ferries.

Asked what she'd like to see in a shipbuilding policy, Michael indicated a long-term plan, as opposed to the short-term one currently in place.

"Do a 20-year plan for the ferries," she said. "Indicate the ferries that can go to smaller shipyards and the ferries that can go to the larger shipyard in Marystown."

Michael would also include a focus on attracting outside work.

"Reach out beyond here. Are there other places who might want to have ferries built here, or other boats, as well? (Government should) show how they will work with the industry to keep work going in shipbuilding here in Newfoundland and Labrador."

For months, there's been no work at Marystown, a yard that pulled out of the bidding for the lucrative navy work.

Michael said workers there have no idea about their future and "it's absolutely unacceptable."

She said the NDP's close race against Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman in Burin-Placentia West in the provincial election "is a real sign down there that people are not happy with this government's performance with regards to Marystown."

Jackman said Thursday he will write a letter to Irving, operators of the Halifax yard, about the possibility of Marystown getting spinoff work from the combat ship contract.

A spokesman from Kiewit, operator of the shipyard, said it was too early to tell if such an opportunity might exist, but the company would consider any of the work it could do at Marystown.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: NDP, Halifax, Discussion Paper on Shipbuilding Capacity/Opportunities

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Marystown, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • docron
    October 24, 2011 - 16:55

    I don't know if Michaels realize that companies with unions are getting less work that companies that don't, also Irving Shipbuilders has a reputation of being one of the best in North America. Michaels should also realize that Marystown Shipyard should have bid for the project themselves and not have or expect the government do it for them.

  • Greg
    October 24, 2011 - 07:06

    I dont know why the Government has to drum up business for a private company(Kiewit). Obviously Kiewit doesnt want the work here in Newfoundland. Government should stop supporting these companies that dont want to help Newfoundlanders.

    • Don
      October 24, 2011 - 10:18

      What a shocking statement from a political leader to say that she is ashamed to be an elected person. If she is so ashamed to be part of government, she should not have run in the election or she should resign. Her supporters must be asking themselves this morning why they voted for her on October 11th. Do the honourable thing Lorraine, RESIGN.