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Federal officials expected de facto sole-source coast guard chopper deal

OTTAWA - Federal officials overseeing the plan to replace Canada's coast guard helicopters were aware at the time that they could end up with the equivalent of a sole-source contract, rather than one open to multiple bidders.

Documents from May 2013 also show that just weeks after the bidding to supply 15 light helicopters got underway, those same officials were looking for ways to justify the existing plan.

The documents, which include minutes from that meeting, were released as part of a legal action in Federal Court being brought by a rival aircraft-maker.

During the meeting, bureaucrats from Transport Canada, Public Works and the coast guard, discussed the need to justify why only one manufacturer would meet the contract's criteria.

The $172-million contract was awarded just a few weeks ago to the only bidder: Bell Helicopter Canada, based in Mirabel, Que.

Minutes from the meeting show Transport Canada officials insisted that the requirements were "not written to suit one aircraft."

They also show the coast guard wanted "detailed justification" to explain the potential sole-source outcome, and that the reasons could include not wanting to upgrade existing infrastructure, such as landing pads.

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