Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce Wednesday that the federal government is buying two more Arctic patrol ships on top of the six it has already ordered from Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding.
However, unlike the first six, which are being built for the navy at a total cost of $3.5 billion, a government source tells The Canadian Press that the seventh and eighth will be built for the Canadian Coast Guard.
According to the source, who was not authorized to comment publicly, the move is intended to address the Canadian Coast Guard’s desperate need for new ships as its current fleet is extremely old, which has affected its ability to do its job.
That includes everything from search-and-rescue operations and resupplying Arctic communities, to clearing ice for ferries in the St. Lawrence River and Atlantic region.
The source says it’s also to address the threat of layoffs, which Irving has long warned will happen unless the government fills a gap between when the last Arctic patrol ship is finished and construction on the navy’s new $60-billion warship fleet.
The government sought to address that gap in November when it ordered the sixth Arctic vessel for the navy and agreed to slow production on the fleet, at a total cost of $800 million.
Half of that cost was for the ship and the other half was to stretch out the work at Irving.
But federal bureaucrats and Irving both warned at that time more would need to be done as even with those measures, Irving was facing an 18-to-24-month gap — during which time it said it would need to lay off workers.
The Canadian Press