Feds to control all Seaspan contract news

Taxpayers group says public money being wasted on federal government “spin control” as work on $8 billion shipbuilding contract intensifies

A rendering of the retooled Vancouver Shipyards after Seaspan completes the $200 million modernization of its North Shore shipyard

Taxpayers won’t get updates on subcontracts being negotiated under Seaspan’s $8 billion federal shipbuilding deal until Ottawa decides to provide them, according to documents Business in Vancouver obtained under Freedom of Information.

The umbrella agreement document for the deal between Seaspan and the federal government, while heavily redacted, alludes to the parties hammering out numerous subcontracts under the deal. But it lays out a strict communications protocol under which the government controls how and when any project updates are released.

The document also states that shipyards can’t make any public announcements about projects under the deal without the federal government’s prior consent.

Jordan Bateman, B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, voiced disappointment with the communications restrictions surrounding the deal.

“The government is basically just wasting money on spin control,” he said. “Seaspan has been awarded this contract; we should let Seaspan run the show. This whole idea of politicians stage-managing projects for their own political advantage – it’s not good value to taxpayers, and frankly, we’re fed up with it.”

Bateman added that it’s not hard to predict how the government will run project communications.

“Every time there’s any kind of milestone, you’re going to end up seeing federal and provincial politicians grinning at the seashore. It should be up to Seaspan to decide when that’s appropriate or when it’s not appropriate. We don’t need government meddling.”

Brian Carter, president of Seaspan Shipyards, confirmed that the next major news on the deal will be the design and other contracts being negotiated under the umbrella agreement.

But he confirmed that, due to the government communications protocol, he can’t provide any update on the progress of those negotiations.

Carter said the company “can work” with the communications restrictions.

“We’re pretty head down, working in concert with the government to get ready for success in the future, and that’s a full-time effort. We certainly understand why [the communications protocol is there], and we’re just here to support the government.”

Public Works and Government Services Canada did not say whether any contracts have been confirmed under the deal but stated that, “[An] update on NSPS [National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy] contract negotiations will be made public in early 2013.” 

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