15 April 2011

Did Kathy know about JSS withdrawal in advance?

Premier Kathy Dunderdale sent the latest round of begging letters off to the federal party leaders on April 7, but one thing was curious by its absence. She tabled them in the House of Assembly but they aren’t online yet.

Sure there was the usual worn-out stuff stuff about federal presence, fisheries, the Hibernia shares and all Danny Williams-era list of grievances.  There’s a poke for yet more cash for Internet broadband and even a request for cash for childcare spaces.

The provincial government that spends more per person than any other one in Canada outside Alberta is looking for Ottawa to pay for stuff that is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

But missing from the letter sent on April 7 is any reference at all to the $35 billion naval shipbuilding contract.

Not a peep.

In a list of 14 or so specific topics.

Danny included the contract in his 2008 letter.

But Kathy Dunderdale did not even make a veiled reference to a contract that held phenomenal potential to keep Marystown working ships for years and years out beyond anything they have got currently in the pipeline.

That is really odd.

After all, Kathy Dunderdale took gigantic offense on Wednesday in the House of Assembly at any suggestion she did not understand the magnitude of the issue:

I take no lessons from you in terms of the Burin Peninsula about its communities, about its people, about its history, about its struggle, because I have been part of it all, I say to you.

That came after Kiewit Offshore shocked most of the people in the province when the story leaked out this week that the company didn’t want to pursue the $35 billion naval construction contract that the federal government is still trying to sort out. 

Shortlisted as one of five companies contending for the work, and yet the company brass said they just couldn’t come up with the professional help to put the bid together.  Didn’t feel they could pursue decades of steady work for their yard at Marystown on the Burin peninsula.  As CBC quoted a company spokesperson:

"The core Kiewit management and engineering folks that we would need for that proposal development just weren't plentiful enough to carry us through the process," said company spokesman Kent Grisham.

Big surprise to pretty well everyone earlier this week.

Fisheries minister Clyde Jackman, whose district the yard is in, told VOCM that he was a shock to him.  Here’s their short account in the event it gets disappeared from the Internet:

Fisheries Minister and the MHA for the district of Burin-Placentia West Clyde Jackman says this week's announcement by Kiewit Offshore Services to cancel its bid in Marystown for up to $35-billion worth of federal shipbuilding work came as a shock to him. He says he's as surprised by it as others, especially since the government has been working with Kiewit for the past number of years to obtain some of this work.

This is not a new project.  In fact, the whole thing is featured specifically in the provincial Conservatives’ 2007 election platform.  You can find it on the website now labelled dunderdale2011.ca:

    • continue to work cooperatively with the Canadian North Atlantic Marine Partnership (CANMAP) bidding team, which includes Marystown’s Peter Kiewit and Sons, in a concerted effort to win the federal Joint Support Ship (JSS) contract for the Burin Peninsula.

This is a big project.

And, if Kathy Dunderdale’s reaction is any sign, this is a sensitive subject.

In the House of Assembly, she even tried the rather lame spin that it was wonderful the company was so flush with work that they could turn away $35 billion in long-term ship building.

But in a letter sent on April 7, Dunderdale did not mention it at all.

It sure looks like Kathy Dunderdale knew long before the rest of us that the company was bailing on the whole thing.

After all, why else would such an important project be missing from his stock letter looking for federal handouts during an election?

Knowing in advance would also explain why she has been trying on the histrionics about personal attacks rather than just answer the questions.

- srbp -