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PCs ignored Blue Book promise with ferry contract: businessman

The president of a local design company specializing in marine and offshore services is disappointed that the Progressive Conservative government failed to live up to one of its Blue Book promises with respect to the latest ferry contract.

Leonard Pecore is president of Genoa Design International Ltd., a Mount Pearl-based design company that services the marine and offshore industries.
— Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram

Last Wednesday, the government announced plans for a new ferry to serve Fogo Island and Change Islands.

The $51-million contract to build the 80-metre vessel was awarded to Damen Shipyards of Norway. It will replace the MV Captain Earl W. Winsor.

Leonard Pecore, president of Genoa Design International Ltd. in Mount Pearl, said the awarding of that contract contradicts what’s outlined in the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador’s 2011 Policy Blue Book.

“We will examine ways to subdivide tenders so local firms are able to bid on components they are capable of doing without being shut out by components that fall outside their range,” reads a bullet point in a section of the document titled “Prospering Businesses.”

In Pecore’s view, the awarding of the full contract to Damen Shipwards leaves many capable Newfoundland and Labrador companies out in the cold.

“Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened here,” he said. “I’m fully aware, because of my involvement in industry, that we could have competitively provided the service close to $1 million of work out of a $51-million contract.”

Had there been other tenders issued in relation to components of the project, Pecore knows of many other businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador’s marine industry that could have contributed to the creation of the new ferry. He also noted that Damen Shipyards is an excellent shipbuilder.

“I think there’s missed opportunities here in Newfoundland and Labrador for companies here to take part in that project. ... When you consider that personally, we pay taxes, as a business, we pay taxes, and those taxes are used to send a project offshore, and nothing was sourced locally — no components, no provisions within the contract to require or request Newfoundland content — it concerns us.”

Genoa Design International was involved in Peter Kiewit International’s work to build two 42-metre vessels in Marystown for the  province’s ferry fleet. It contacted companies on the bidding list for the latest ferry tender and found eight who were interested in collaborating.

“Several Canadian firms and several international firms, and especially those that understood the benefit of Newfoundland content,” said Pecore. “It improved the position of their proposal.”

The company then contacted government and brought up the idea of hiring a design company separate from the builder. “We were told that government certainly had the ability to manage their contracts as they chose and to write them as they chose, within their legal parameters.”

Pecore wonders how much weight the province placed on bids with local content. He also feels the province’s strategy contrasts that of the federal government, whose own shipbuilding strategy involves a goal to help foster and rebuild Canada’s shipbuilding capabilities.

The Telegram requested an interview Tuesday with Transportation and Works Minister Nick McGrath. McGrath, who is also the minister responsible for Labrador and aboriginal affairs, was in Winnipeg for a meeting of the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group and unavailable for comment.

The Telegram emailed questions to the department concerning the procurement process for the new vessel, but did not receive a response prior to deadline.

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