Icebreaker cost soars

Three used icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard will cost 30 per cent more than the federal government previously said — an increase that officials have blamed on tariffs and fees, but one expert says is proof of a lack of planning.

In August, the government gave the cost of the three icebreakers as $610 million when it announced its plan to buy them from Quebec-based Davie Shipyard without a competition, to temporarily augment the coast guard's aging fleet.

Budget documents recently tabled in the House of Commons show the government is setting aside $827 million this fiscal year for the vessels, which are docked at Davie's yard across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.

Public Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough's office said Tuesday the government always said it planned to spend more on the vessels than $610 million because the budget only covered purchasing the icebreakers and initial conversions for the first ship.

The additional $217 million is needed to cover tariffs for importing the Norwegian-made ships as well as brokerage fees, engineering work and other costs to get them up and running, said coast-guard spokesman Benoit Mayrand.

The coast guard, which uses icebreakers to clear Canada's seaways for commercial shipping, scientific research and search-and-rescue operations, declined to provide a breakdown of the extra costs, citing ongoing contract talks.

For its part, Davie welcomed news of the additional funds on Tuesday.

"We are pleased the government has increased the budget as it will ensure we can perform the engineering and conversion work required on the ships, which will be used for the years to come by the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard," company spokesman Frederik Boisvert said.

One of the icebreakers will be used this winter while the other two undergo extensive conversion work at Davie's shipyard in Levis, Que., before the first returns next year and goes through a similar process.

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