EDITORIAL: Tread carefully with ship contract

Decision on best value vs. local jobs lies with province

Various individuals and organizations want the province to force B.C. Ferries management to have three newly announced ships built by a B.C. shipyard.

But it’s not as simple as just mandating it, then standing back and telling the ferry corporation to just “get ’er done.”

Even Brian Carter, the president of Seaspan Shipyards, which owns and operates Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt, acknowledged his company will have to look at what’s being asked for first, before it can determine whether it even has the capacity and infrastructure to commit to such a project.

A perfect scenario for the Capital Region would see the ships built in B.C., constructed on time and on budget, and with much of the work and jobs coming to Victoria Shipyards, the largest of Seaspan’s three facilities in this province.

But as the ferry corporation found when it commissioned its Celebration-class vessels some years back, international companies are well-equipped to handle such orders and will provide stiff competition for B.C. firms that are only in recent years picking up steam again.

We’d love to trumpet the regional economic activity that would be created by the further expansion of shipbuilding capabilities in Esquimalt.

At the same time, all of us as taxpayers will be footing the bill for those ferries, and it behooves the corporation to seek out the best value for money in this transaction.

Determining whether the creation of a significant number of short-term, well-paying jobs is more important than the potential to overspend for this project, if the bidding was not opened up to a worldwide competition, is a job for government, not the B.C. Ferry Corporation.

The Liberals, despite saying they will let B.C. Ferries make the final decision, have to make sure the corporation is absolutely clear on government’s viewpoint on that issue.

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