Harper's Big Photo Op Doesn't Stand Up to Smell Test
Touted as a big job creator with long term, well paying jobs, the Seaspan contract for B.C. and Halifax is really a poor attempt to spin perception beyond reality. Firstly, Harper praised himself for being transparent and offering a hands off bidding process to prove that the government works above board and doesn't play favorites. Not quite. Quebec was shunned because only two locations were in the running.
In real terms, there are huge issues about the lack of planning in the whole deal.
Fiction: Canadian jobs
Alion engineering (a US engineering design company) won the contract for R&D of the Seaspan ships....so again Canada loses out!
Fiction: Skilled Jobs
People forget that shipbuilding is going to require the same sort of SKILLED workers that are already in short supply from coast to coast:
- Qualified welders
- Plate fitters & CNC machine operators
- Manufacturing Engineers & Welding Technologists
- Marine Engineers (designers)
- Riggers and Operators
- Machinists and Millwrights
- QA & QC people
- Industrial electricians
Where's the plan for training and encouraging young people into these trades and occupations?
A client in Western Canada who just received the permission needed to import ~100 welder-fitters from the Philippines. They've basically given up trying to find and train reliable Canadians for this work.
Fiction: Skilled Designers Needed
Korea and China produce thousands of marine engineers a year....so Canada will always be at a competitive disadvantage in this industry. Besides if memory serves me, Marine Naval Architectural engineers are one of if not the smallest group of PEngs in the country and many are older....so where are we getting the skilled designers?
Fiction: Long Term, Well Paying Jobs
Robotic welding machines can operate faster, more accurately, can simultaneously measure penetration and quality of welds and weld in different orientations. These machines require a minimum of highly skilled technicians to operate and maintain and can keep working 24hrs a day. Modern pipe bending machines can pre-bend pipe in 3D in a continuous manner, such that far fewer connections and welds are required and fewer pipe fitters. Proper engineering design coupled with modular building and technologies means ships can be built faster, larger, and require a much smaller highly skilled labour force. The reality is that IF Irving and Seaspan wish to remain competitive they will have to introduce these new technologies, and as such, fewer workers will be required.
So for all the pomp and grandstanding about jobs, it is likely that the NSBP will not result in the intended number of long term stable well paying jobs; rather fewer skilled jobs with many part time and indirect lower paying jobs!
Proviso: Cost Overruns and Federal Oversight
This week’s agreement “addressed things that both [government] ministers and concerned citizens of Canada have asked,” Mr. Whitworth said. “‘If we are going to put our support into these shipyards, what guarantees that the shipyards will perform?’”
To answer that question, the agreement also grants Ottawa unfettered access to shipyard accounting books for the life of the construction projects, a feature intended to head off cost overruns. (Globe and Mail)