Bennett's Blog

So how do you build a better navy?

Bennett R. Coles | March 10, 2011

I read yesterday that Canada has declined to participate in a joint project with Great Britain to build together the next generation of warships for both navies.

The main reason cited is that a joint deal wouldn't be in the best interests of Canadian industry - namely our shipyards. More business kept in Canada, more jobs for Canadians. This is a strong argument, but the strong counter-argument can also be made that collaboration with Britain would likely result in cost-savings through economies of scale and a better design due to more expertise being applied from both sides of the Atlantic.

So, you're the Prime Minister. You have to make this high-profile, multi-billion dollar decision that will have massive implications for Canadian industry, defence and foreign policy for decades. Do you try to please the voters in Halifax, Quebec and Vancouver who will benefit from the big boost to their local economies when these massive ship-building contracts are offered? Or do you try to please the disparate but vocal fiscal hawks who want you to get the best product for the lowest price?

To chase the highly-visible local ship-building contracts is the populist angle that gives you good photo ops and reaches three far-flung regions in our country.

To chase the international collaboration is the intellectual angle that helps build the case that Canada under your government is fiscally responsible and still a significant world player.

I'm not going to say which decision I'd make, but I'm curious to know yours.

And I'm glad I'm not a politician.

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