A bid to build: Nova Scotia offers strong case for next generation of ships

Since the arrival of the navy to our shores in 1910, Nova Scotia has been at the heart of Canada’s shipbuilding, defence, security and aerospace sectors. Today, I am pleased to say that once again my province is ready to lead.

For more than a year now, Nova Scotia and Canada have been on the cusp of a tremendous opportunity. It could be the biggest industrial opportunity we’ve seen since confederation. It’s also an opportunity unlike anything we have seen before, and may ever see again.

The federal government’s $35-billion National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) is the economic equivalent of hosting the Olympics every year for the next 30 years. The navy and coast guard ships that will be built under these contracts will change the face of our fleet, and help create a more prosperous future.

These contracts represent the promise of a generation of good jobs for thousands of young people. They will create the economic growth that will be the foundation of schools, hospitals and thriving communities.

Naturally, I believe Nova Scotia is ideally suited to meet the federal government’s needs. Thankfully, I’m not alone. Messages of support and encouragement from people in every province and territory can be seen at www.CanadianShipsStartHere.ca .

From the Bluenose, to our current fleet of battleships, Nova Scotia has always built the best ships. We have the modern facilities, exceptional track record, and highly skilled workforce that a project like this demands.

I also believe Nova Scotia has the strongest bid for these contracts…period.

Irving Shipbuilding has built about 80 percent of Canada’s current surface combatant fleet. The company has also invested almost $90 million in the skills of its people and infrastructure and technology upgrades between 2006 and 2011. Plus, Irving Shipbuilding has a supply chain that stretches from B.C. to Newfoundland, which is why we believe we truly are Canada’s bid.

But even with our sterling reputation, we realize there is still much to prove.

That’s why we are working together. Business, community, academic and government leaders are combining their efforts to make sure everyone knows the importance of this opportunity. Irving Shipbuilding is partnering with our educational institutions to ensure our workers remain highly skilled in the cutting edge technologies needed to build this futuristic fleet.

These ships may end up being built at the Halifax Shipyard, but the parts, the planning and the professionals needed to float this massive project will spread across the province…and from coast to coast.

A recent study by the Conference Board of Canada shows that if Nova Scotia is selected for the NSPS, the Canadian economy is expected to grow by $1.5 billion during peak years, and employment outside the province will rise by 4,500. Simply stated, a win for Nova Scotia is a win for Canada.

The legacy of this project will build on Nova Scotia’s status as a centre of excellence in the marine sector. With more than 450 PhDs and 1,000 researchers already working in the province, winning this bid will surely generate many more opportunities we haven’t even imagined.

Beyond shipbuilding, a growing cluster of leading edge defence, security and aerospace companies call Nova Scotia home. The aerospace and defence sector injects more than half a billion dollars into our economy each year. The sector employs more than 6,000 Nova Scotians in high-skilled, high-paying jobs. It is an important contributor to Nova Scotia’s economy and dovetails with our plan to grow our economy. Our jobsHere strategy is very clear on what we as a province need to do to compete in the global marketplace. We need to grow the economy through innovation. We need to create higher value jobs. And we need to do business on a global scale.

Soon we will find out if the next generation of navy ships will set sail from our coastline. Time and again, the federal government has promised that the decision will be made based on an open, fair and competitive process. I, and all my colleagues applaud this approach. The contracts should go to the bidders that have earned this opportunity.

That’s why Nova Scotia is built to build.

Percy Paris is Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism for Nova Scotia.

Author: Percy Paris from the Aug/Sept 2011 issue published

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