One ship to save Canada’s Arctic

MP Todd Doherty believes the brave men and women of our Canadian Coast Guard deserve better

Losing Canada’s only underwater survey and scientific research ship means losing the Arctic and our ability to monitor and map the oceans. It puts at risk Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, our ability to monitor climate change as well as our ability to ensure the safety of navigation for marine traffic in the most sensitive of ecosystems. Until the new Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (OOSV) can be delivered, Canada’s Arctic is at risk.

While everyone has been talking about the bungled shipbuilding procurements for the Navy, few have noticed the Canadian Coast Guard Service (CCGS) is on the brink of losing its only offshore oceanographic (hydrographic) science vessel, the 1963-built CCGS Hudson.

The CCGS Hudson has served Canada proudly for 55 years. Whether she was surveying underwater ridges to defend our sovereignty in the Arctic, monitoring climate change, surveying the seabed to create charts for the safe navigation of ships in the Arctic or searching for crashed aircraft, the need for an Offshore Oceanographic and Science Vessel is unambiguous.

But ships don’t last forever. In fact, it is widely accepted in the marine industry that ships should be taken out of service at between 25-30 years old. In other words, she should have been scrapped in 1993. But with a series of mismanaged procurements, that didn’t happen. And despite the Coast Guard’s valiant efforts to keep her in service, she has now been through a series of attempted but mostly botched repairs which have raised the eyebrows of those within the marine industry.

The most recent repair works were aborted halfway through. She is a writeoff and certainly not the kind of ship we could risk sending North. Not if we value the lives of our men and women in the Coast Guard or the sensitive ecosystems of the Arctic.

Unfortunately, through years of Trudeau Liberal procurement mismanagement, we have seen numerous delays in the shipbuilding program. The replacement for the CCGS Hudson should have been delivered for $108m, but Liberal bungling and mishandling means it will cost well above $600m and won’t be delivered until 2021 at the earliest. As a member of the House of Commons committee on Oceans and Fisheries I have constantly battled to receive a simple schedule but have been met with a wall of silence and obfuscation by senior bureaucrats who will go to all lengths to suppress the dire reality of the situation. This year, I was even told that it was confidential. Please.

The planned OOSV ship which will replace the CCGS Hudson is one of the four Coast Guard ships penned to be built in Vancouver by Seaspan shipyard to prove its capability before it begins to take on larger projects for the Navy. It is scheduled to be built after the first three Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels are delivered. Therein lies the first problem — those ships are presently around seven years late and we are yet to see even one handed over to the Canadian Coast Guard. And yet, the Trudeau Liberals continue to muddy the water hoping Canadians won’t recognize their poor attempts at welding together a coherent procurement strategy.

This past summer, an expedition cruise ship grounded in Nunavut. Whether that was because of insufficient charts available due to a lack of surveys is still to be determined by the authorities. But one thing is clear, our wildlife got off very lightly. If that had been an oil spill, then it would have been a catastrophe. With marine traffic increasing along our Northern coast, the need for a ship to chart the mostly uncharted waters is critical.

And if we can’t ascertain what lies beneath, how can we even begin to enforce our claims over this prized but hotly-contested region?

Today, the government’s commitment to the Ocean Protection Plan, and operational requirements including oil spill recovery, and scientific research demands the readiness of the Off-Shore Oceanographic Science Vessel.

Canada has the longest most geographically diverse coastlines in the world and the worlds oldest marine fleet. Most, if not all, of the fleet tasked with keeping our waterways open and secure for the safe transportation of goods and people, ensuring coastal communities and our Maritimers remain safe — are well beyond their nominal service dates. If the Liberal government can’t deliver the ship we need, and all indications are that they can’t, then we need to change this government. Canada cannot afford to lose this critical capability. Scientists, researchers and those who care about protecting the oceans need this ship build now – at a reasonable price point. This is not about politics anymore. It’s about putting Canada first.

The brave men and women of our Canadian Coast Guard deserve better.

­­—Todd Doherty, MP for Cariboo-Prince George and Conservative Shadow Minister for Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard

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