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Have our ships come in?

Lack of results thus far from shipbuilding contract

Halifax ship yard by Rob Grandy
Halifax ship yard by Rob Grandy

The Halifax Shipyard is going to make billions of dollars with their new contract, plain and simple. But despite the excitement following the $25 billion contract awarded to the province on Oct. 19, a lot remains unanswered.

We have the where, but not the how or the when. So excuse me if I am a little more skeptical than seemingly every politician in Nova Scotia.

Lars Osberg, head of the economics department at Dalhousie, says more time needs to pass before the extent of the contract is revealed. “It’s a framework agreement because the details of the ship procurement process really won’t be known for some years,” he says.

Peter Stoffer, the MLA for Sackville-Eastern Shore and official shipbuilding critic for the NDP, is weary of the reactions from some, but says the project “gives (the Halifax Regional Municipality) tremendous potential in the world stage.”

And this contract does that—at least on the national stage. There has never been such continuity for a contract like this. Generally these contracts last a much shorter amount of time, but Halifax will be in the shipbuilding spotlight for the next 30 years.

But my main concern is that many politicians and citizens have already celebrated the accomplishment without looking forward. We know barely any details of this contract whatsoever. No deals have been discussed and no steel has been cut, but we’re partying like it’s already happening.

There are approximately 1,000 people currently working in the Halifax shipyard. According to a study conducted by the Greater Halifax Partnership, up to 11,500 jobs would be created as a by-product of this contract. That is a massive amount of jobs being created in the region. This contract, though vague at the moment, will offer Haligonians the opportunity to stay in their home city and still make a decent living.

Since the announcement there have been over 2,000 applications for employment at the shipyard. However, there have only been 50 hires (mostly for electrical workers), according to the CBC.

My biggest problem with the contract lies in the lack of results we have seen thus far. Politicians are generally going into press conferences and saying this contract is the greatest thing to ever happen to Halifax. What happened to sensibility or moderation in the government?

As much as I love to play the devil’s advocate, it is damn near impossible to say that this contract is a bad thing, even with the lack of results that have been shown thus far. It will have benefits for almost every person and business in the HRM, boosting the province’s faltering economy.

But until I see more results, I just hope our ships pull into dock exactly how we expect.

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Justin Hartling
Justin Hartling
Justin was an Online Editor for Volume 146 of the Gazette.

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