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Features Military Procurements
Editorial: Toward the Finish Line

This issue of HELICOPTERS largely focuses on the Maritime Helicopter Project (MHP) because we believe a final decision -- if not around the next corner -- is at least imminent and likely to happen before, or not long after the next federal election.


July 18, 2007
By David Carr

Topics

This issue of HELICOPTERS largely focuses on the Maritime Helicopter
Project (MHP) because we believe a final decision — if not around the
next corner — is at least imminent and likely to happen before, or not
long after the next federal election. The only question other than
which of the three contending helicopters will get the nod is whether
the government will proceed with a Request for Proposals (RFP), or buy
the EH101, NH90 or Sikorsky H-92 directly off the shelf.

A
direct buy would certainly offset a small portion of the unforgivable
amount of time this government has already consumed replacing a
contract it cancelled 10 years ago. What such a purchase would do to
the industrial regional benefits traditionally wrung out of the
manufacturer during a public RFP process is unclear. Not that this
government has ever lost sleep by squandering economic spin-offs when
political advantage can be gained. The original EH101 contract included
10% Canadian content on all future helicopters sold worldwide. While
some domestic subcontractors managed to hold onto the business they
received as a result of the initial procurement, most did not.

As
Robert Petite writes in A Look Back (page 46), the process that
eventually led to an order for 41 Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King helicopters
in 1962 did not run smoothly. The procurement for its replacement far
less so, and for reasons too vulgar and self-serving to have been
imagined 40 years ago. As a result, the federal Liberals are in a
no-win situation. That is the way it should be, and the main reason why
the most politically motivated (a polite term for cowardly) Prime
Minister in postwar Canadian history has repeatedly delayed the
decision.

If the government reaffirms the original order for the
EH101 it invites questions about why it took so long to arrive at the
same spot we were 10 years previous. The old argument that the country
could not afford the aircraft does not hold water given that the
Liberals have wasted more than the original purchase price in HRDC
slush funds and gun registry cost overruns.

Conversely, a
decision in favour of either the N- 92 or NH90 exposes the process
(unfairly in this magazine's judgement) to charges that the government
rigged the system in order to save face by keeping the EH101 out of the
running. Certainly the cabinet, including Paul Martin, did itself no
favours by constantly altering the rules of the game throughout the
process.

So, how do we save future governments from themselves
while restoring integrity to a procurement process badly tainted in the
eyes of taxpayers and legitimate companies who bid for such contracts
in good faith? Sadly, very little…


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