Mar 1, 2013 / 7:19 pm
Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the navy will get the supply ships it needs, despite a parliamentary budget officer's report that shows the government has not set aside enough cash to build them.
MacKay would not indicate whether he'll ask the federal cabinet for more money.
In a report Thursday, budget officer Kevin Page said if the government sticks to the $2.6-billion budget, it will have to strip out capabilities from the ship design, which has already been downgraded once.
Page estimated replacing the existing replenishment ships, HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur, would cost about $3.2 billion, but that the budget should be set at $4.1 billion because the Canadian industry has no recent experience building similar vessels.
Federal officials have said the ship's design will undergo a costing review, perhaps later this year.
MacKay says he'll study the advice, but insisted new ships will either "match or surpass" the current vessels.
Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose earlier this week defended the government's estimates, saying safeguards have been put in place to ensure the project is affordable.
Like MacKay on Friday, Ambrose underscored that the ships were still in the design phase.
Defence expert Dave Perry, of Carleton University and the Conference of Defence Associations, said the chances of the navy getting the ships it wants are "pretty low."
Based on government statements, the only option will be to reduce the vessels' capabilities, he said.
"They're not going to be able to get the same calibre of (resupply) ship," Perry said.
"Not only are you not getting the extra capability that was intended in 2004, '05, '06, you're going to be getting less capability than what was planned for in 2008."
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