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.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.