The feds really want a procurement win

But the government won’t get much credit until a big purchase goes right

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

“It’s time to ensure everyone is held accountable for delivering on their promises to our men and women in uniform.” —Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Works Minister Diane Finley, in today’s National Post

The mere mention of the word procurement probably makes federal ministers restless in their seats. Military procurement has, shall we say, not gone well for the Tory government. So rare is the occasion that the army or air force or navy execute the big buys on schedule and on budget that purchases gone right offer true surprises. Not something the government wants to wear as its legacy.

Today, the government hopes to, as they say, change the channel on poor procurement. Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Works Minister Diane Finley outlined a new approach to procurement in today’s National Post. They say they’ll keep industry in the loop from beginning to end and work more with companies who are willing to innovate in Canada. The feds will publish an annual update on major procurement and establish, within the Department of National Defence, an “independent, third-party challenge function”—independent, within the department?—”for military requirements.” They’re also creating a working group of ministers who will provide oversight of big purchases. And they’re also setting up a procurement secretariat that will manage purchases.

Lots of new measures, more eyes on procurement, and accountability reframed. Steven Chase reports in The Globe and Mail that the new multi-department approach to procurement takes some power away from the defence department, which has historically had plenty of sway on what the military needs and who can provide the goods.

Chase also notes that Canada’s ongoing shipbuilding procurement, much lauded at its outset, used the same rejigged procurement strategy as Nicholson and Finley are announcing today. That could serve them well as they sell the new plan. But the government has one big problem whenever they talk about procurement, even when they’re talking about fixing the mess: the opposition can mention, day and night, how poorly the government has handled big purchases. Until the government buys something on time, and on budget, and can close the account with no regret, the Tories can’t hope to win any points on the file.


Globe: Legal battles related to the Senate expenses scandal will stretch into 2015.

Post: One of the alleged rail bomb terror plotters accused Canada of colonizing Afghanistan.

Star: Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb were both charged with fraud and breach of trust.

Citizen: The RCMP is still investigating Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.

CBC: The UN says the Catholic Church approved policies that allowed rape.

CTV: The government’s electoral reform would allow early reporting of results.

NNW: The Mounties continue to investigate ex-PM chief of staff Nigel Wright.


Near: A famous Canadian law firm, Heenan Blaikie, may not survive an exodus of partners.

Far: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been secretly negotiating with the Taliban.

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The feds really want a procurement win

  1. Buying designing building weapons has never been high on the files of limp wristed.
    Most of MIT’s funding has come from the military.

    • Source?

      • oh please

        • Can’t back it up eh? Thought so.

  2. I think the solution to procurement is on the shelf purchases. If a company says they will supply fine, but that product should be created and put on the shelf for sale, at that price, with an understanding it will be bought, BUT, if its not up to snuff or on time, it releases the Gov’t from buying, That way they can buy an promise acceptance of the first one, but not be tied to a failure. So its the company that ends up being on the hook. Not tax payers. IF we could have more off the shelf type of purchases because intents are made by several countries, companies can operate and gov’ts can expect and get things “off the shelf.” It might seem like the same as it is, but there would be a way out then for Gov’ts.

    • Agreed.. Take the SAR helicopter replacements. Loaded down with 100s of useless “customizations” to keep narcissistic ego bloat in Ottawa happy when COTs solutions exist for a mere fraction of the cost.

      It shows a sad total lack of management for effectiveness and economics in Ottawa. A blatant disregard of efficiency in both costs and capabilities. All to keep some self important know nothing pushing paper in endless meetings that don’t get much done.

      A sick huge waste of money.

      No one represents the taxpayers.

      • Hope you understand that the government is moving precisely in the opposite direction. There are arguments to be made on both sides (and Harper’s conservatives have now made both of them). However, the current move is clearly toward using military procurement as an economic development tool.
        The best one can hope for is that the stuff still works… it is not likely to be cheap.

      • I sometimes wonder what would happen if the CF bought a German, British or (as you suggest) South Korean ship. Or even a design for construction here. Likely one of those things that makes sense but is politically difficult/impossible, especially when shipyards are threatened with closure.

        In a perfect world, we’d be the ones designing and building this stuff for other countries, especially those with northern climes.

      • I think this bunch of conservatives where a bit naive to start, and got gobsmacked with the ridiculousness of the process and the cost. I can see a few F words being used not ending in 18. or 35.

        Now that there is a bit of a harsh awakening in Ottawa as to the matter at hand, and a sober view of the USA, the process will be strong armed in a good way by the Politicians in Ottawa.

  3. Canadian ship building with government money is a farce. Korea can make them so much cheaper, faster and better that its criminal on how Ottawa spends money here. Just lining pockets on the taxpayers behind.

    A good part of the issue is buddy deals and top level bloat, every CF Ottawa bureaucrat has to load down the specs with nonsense customizations driving the costs through the roof and making procurement a very costly nightmare. Thats $200M for a ship, with Ottawa nonsense it costs $900M……

    Thing too, take the rusty subs, over $2 billion on junk and they still don’t work right.

    Its as if they get pay raises and promotions on how much of our money they waste. I can see why in WW II it took almost 2 years for CF to really get inputs to the war, they had to clean up incompetences and wastes before they could be effective. (Yes, I knew a vet from the era).

    Tons of good books on how to run effective procurement. But totally ignored by the Ottawa bureaucrats ad we end up paying the price.

  4. I think I disagree with Nick in terms of what the needs are for a Conservative win on this file. Sure it would be nice if they could buy something without screwing up… however that is not likely to happen before the next election.

    They could also try to make minor purchases that have gone well enough a bigger issue, but that is tough given that the new approach has to be sold as a solution to a problem.

    What is the CPC’s biggest problem right now. Well, Trudeau of course. That said, what needs to be done to beat Trudeau in the next election. Check out Eric Grenier’s great site:

    now go to the second page for the regional breakouts with time.

    Trudeau’s leadership produced a bump across the country, but the biggest, permanent(?) shifts were in BC, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

    So, expect an announcement in the next twelve months of $980 billion dollars for military procurement to be spent annually in each of those areas starting in 2019, eliminating poverty, unemployment and seasonal depression. The details of how the money will be spent will be determined by a crack team of mayors, local industry and failed CPC candidates. Couple this with strategic, boutique tax breaks for reusable grocery bags, and children’s gym socks and Harper is a lock for his next majority.

    My understanding is that our vets were in line for their own tax break for flag and ammunition purchases, but as we know they screwed that one up big time.

    • It is safe to assume you’re tongue is in your cheek here on the lock for a majority[ sure hope so]
      But the common denominator in those 3 regions is that Harper is riily rilly not liked by a lot of people.[ even accounting for seniors in BC who love all the Royal stuff and can’t abide the ndp]

      Hard to see how Harper shifts this.[QC is now a lost cause as may be the maritmes] The key has to be ON. And it can’ be good news that Trudeau’s more recent moves are being well received in some quarters in AB…oops, back door play.

      • Certainly not tongue in cheek, but I was wearing my short pants to get in the correct frame of mind.

        I agree on the not-liking thing. In my view, the pundits place too much importance on the “if voting today” question and not enough on the “I would cut off my hand first” question. The relevance of the first is obvious, but the second is monotonic. Like losing the telemores off your DNA, if too many people hate you… you are finished of natural causes.

        It would be interesting to know how the riding by riding breakdowns are likely to go in the East, to see if the Conservatives hope to hand onto a disproportionate number of seats given their polling.

        • monotonic…telemores…thank goodness for google :)

          Seems to me Trudeau is the only one doing the serious work on the don’t hate me because of what my Dad or party did in the past front. Arguably he has the most heavy lifting to do. But i’m beginning to think there’s an end in sight to the upside of the Harper strategy – just make sure there are more guys who don’t hate me on my side of the fence than the other guys side. This was bound to happen once someone came along who actually had a gift for making people like him.[ Jack gave it a good shot. Who knows if he would have taken Harper next time out. Pity he had the ndp around his neck like an albatross]

          • Trudeau’s negative numbers are not actually so bad,
            but you are correct in that he is addressing them (and has been) for a long time. He has a gift for making decisions/moves that are simultaneous genuine and politically advantageous.

            It would be interesting to know if the Conservative war room leans towards the analysis of Brian Mulroney or Rick Omen on Trudeau… personally I hope they are all Ricks.

          • Personally i think Rick is Soudas’s twin brother. He has at least three, the other being Charles, chet, Kody, Biff depending on his mood.

  5. The conservative government is very good at making public announcements. They are also very good at convincing news agencies how well these announcements will work out.
    However they are not very good at making things work.
    It is time for the media to be more critical of the economics of our government, and instead of talking about what will happen in the future it is time to critically examine what is happening in the present and what has happened in the past.

  6. Of course they want a “win” – the Liberals might get the government next election.
    The whole Liberal burning subs and rescue helicopter fiasco pale in
    comparison to the F-35 deal (and we haven’t even received them).

    If the Libs win, the Cons can always pin the blame on them.
    The circle of life…

    • Nothing compared to the threat of the endless tens of billions at risk by these absurd cons. Nothing. Thank goodness we had the Liberals holding them to account or that unprecedented money sucking machine would be well under way. Thank goodness we will have a Liberal government back in power. Let the days of federal surpluses/balances begin again. Good riddance to this cabal of disgraced evangelical global laughing stocks.

  7. These little napoleon wannabes are village idiots. They’re all about militarization for the sake of militarization. They are wringing their greasy hands at the thought of getting entangled in foreign misadventures so they wave a flag in hollow patriotism. The arctic jets they first proposed were useless for arctic patrol. They knew that. Then why risk endless billions shilling them? The artic issue will be settled by international law, not military action. How do they propose you match the US and Russia militarily, nations with exponentially larger tax bases.You don’t. This regime is a joke.

  8. Politics – a theatre of war the Canadian military leadership is poorly equipped (or wants) to fight. My Point: The Harper Gov’t gave you, our Generals and Colonels, what you wanted, ..a war, equipment and people to shoot at.. You’ve had your battlefield experience, shot your wad, one might say. Harper has moved on. He’s got jobs to create, an economy to motivate and spending anymore money on the military isn’t buying him the votes he so desperately needs. So what’s a military to do? First, look at your merry march down that path led by the Harper to where you are now, a desert, – bereft of equipment, standing army and most importantly direction. Except for the new digs in Ottawa riddled with Chinese bugs this is your lot. Why? ..because you didn’t ask the question “.. to what end?” The Canadian engagement in Afghanistan was about what.. little girls going to school? ..bringing democracy to opium farmers? ..WMDs? As IEDs exploded, soldiers died, your only concern was to make sure there was a Timmies in camp. I shan’t be to hard on you ’cause Canadians in general followed the same path for the same reason, no one asked “ what end”. I digress. Back to your lot.. The Gov’t is selling the left overs of Afghanistan out of some South Asian port to the highest bidder and now has removed you from the procurement desk. That’s it.. fun and games are over .. time to kick back in the new digs, plant a couple of howitzers on the front lawn and raise the nations flag. Julian Fantino is looking after the vets, Diane Finley is buying you new guns and there is a Timmies on the main floor. Life’s good!!
    So, you’re right back where you were during the PET and Chretien years. No equipment, no men and no responsibility. I thought it was a statement, when you sent the boys to Kandahar in jungle camo, to embarrass the Liberals. Wasn’t that at all! Horror of horrors, then Harper decided to equip, dress and engage your team in Kandahar. The draw down from Afghanistan couldn’t come fast enough. ..didn’t have any idea why you were there anyway. But all’s well that ends well, right! I can now understand why not a peep on being booted from the procurement table. You didn’t want to be there anyway. As for my opening statement, I will have to retract it. You’re excellent at this political game.
    Might I add, please don’t look down at the injured vets leaving the building after being dismissed, it will interfere with the thoughts of the political battle you’ve just won.

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