Despite a blunt budget warning from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), Defence Minister Peter MacKay says he won’t be blown off course in the shipbuilding program to re-equip the navy.
“Yes, it is our intention, and always has been, that the navy will have the necessary replenishment ships, supply ships that they need,” said MacKay.
The PBO said Thursday the feds should set aside $4.1 billion, instead of the current $2.6 billion budget, for two new “joint support ships” simply to match the capability of the 44-year old fuel, cargo, and personnel-carrying vessels they would replace.
That warning also created doubts about whether the government plans to leave enough in the piggy bank for 15 combat ships to replace Canada’s frigates and destroyers.
On Friday, MacKay was asked whether he could guarantee that the government wouldn’t reduce the capabilities or numbers of navy ships built in an effort to force the program to fit its budget.
“The intention is clearly to match or surpass the (current) capability,” he said. “We’re in the very early stages, and even earlier with respect to the replacement of the combat vessels.”
MacKay added that there would be plenty of independent oversight of budgets as the ships are designed and built.
Under the feds’ $33 billion, 30-year shipbuilding strategy, the navy is supposed to get 15 combat ships, two supply ships and at least six arctic patrol vessels.
The strategy also includes one oceanographic science vessel, three fisheries science vessels, and a new polar icebreaker.