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The Diefenbaker was first announced by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2008 and awarded to Seaspan in October 2011, one of seven ships to be built by the Vancouver shipyard through Ottawa’s multibillion-dollar shipbuilding strategy.
The plan at the time was for the entire deal, valued at $8 billion for all seven ships, to usher in a new era of stability and prosperity for shipbuilding on Canada’s West Coast while delivering much-needed vessels for the coast guard and the navy.
The Diefenbaker was arguably the crown jewel of the package. Originally budgeted at $721 million, the polar icebreaker was supposed to be delivered by 2017 and replace the coast guard’s flagship, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.
But scheduling conflicts, technical problems and other issues scuttled the timeline and budget — which was increased to $1.3 billion in 2013 and is now under review again — before the government lifted the ship from Seaspan’s order book in August 2019.
Ottawa asked shipyards in March to explain how and why they should get the contract. Seaspan and Quebec rival Chantier Davie, which lost out of the competition that saw Seaspan get the Diefenbaker in 2011, were among the respondents.
Still, it’s clear Lamarre doesn’t think there should be any question about which yard should be tasked with building the vessel.
“As I said, we competed for the work in 2011 and won the right to the non-combat vessels,” he said. “Since then, we’ve invested into the one of the most modern shipyards in North America.”