Liberals add 30M to science vessel budget say Tories lowballed initial estimate

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. – The federal Liberals have announced another multimillion-dollar top-up for a key project under the national shipbuilding strategy after the former Conservative government lowballed the original budget, says the minister in charge.“We inherited a bit of a mess,” said Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote shortly after committing an additional $30 million to build an offshore oceanographic science vessel.The project is over budget and behind deadline.“We’re working to try to fix that mess.”Foote made the announcement in front of hundreds of hard hat-toting workers gathered inside a Seaspan Shipyards hangar in North Vancouver on Monday.The minister also promised $35 million for Seaspan to start work on three joint supply ships. Those vessels will deliver fuel, ammunition, spare parts, food and water to Canadian and allied vessels, allowing them to remain at sea for long periods.The previous government relied on an “unrealistic” costing methodology that failed to take into account various price increases including inflation, Foote told reporters after the event.This is the second cash infusion for the science vessel since the Conservatives’ initial $108-million budget in 2008 was boosted by $35 million a year later. Monday’s announcement puts the project’s overall cost at more than $170 million, or 60 per cent over budget.Conservative procurement critic Steven Blaney said the Liberals inherited a rigorous process that was recognized by the auditor general as being fair and competitive.The new government is responsible to ensure those ships are delivered on time and at cost, he said.“The Liberals cannot blame others for meeting the responsibility to ensure the best interests of the navy, of the coast guard and of the taxpayers. That’s what we expect them to do,” Blaney said.“They are in charge. Now they have to step up to the plate.”During her announcement, Foote left the door open to the possibility of further cost overruns and downplayed the suggestion that Seaspan is to blame for the spiralling price tag.“It’s not about fault. We have not had a shipbuilding industry in this country in 20 years, so getting it right is really important,” she said, adding that more funds would be made available if necessary.Seaspan president Brian Carter said the initial 2008 budget predated his company’s involvement in the national shipbuilding strategy, which became official four years later.“When we came into this situation it was our first look at the projects and we made an honest assessment of what we thought it would take to build these ships,” he said.“And right now we’re working right to that estimate.”Carter said he was unable to provide an overall dollar figure for the science vessel, explaining that final estimates are typically made after the construction contract is signed and immediately before building begins.The offshore oceanographic science vessel is the fourth of 17 ships tentative slated for construction at the North Vancouver shipyard. Work has already started on the first of three fisheries vessels, which also have budget woes.Internal briefing notes dated Nov. 16 show the budget for those ships spiked by 181 per cent between 2009 and 2015 to $687 million.The documents attributed this increase to the federal government’s inexperience overseeing “multiple, complex ship projects,” as well as a steep learning curve for Seaspan, which needed to find skilled staff and learn to use its new facilities.This announcement comes days after Foote rejected an unsolicited bid from Quebec-based Davie Shipyard to take over many of the contracts already awarded to Seaspan.A draft statement obtained by The Canadian Press last week acknowledged Davie had proposed to build or repurpose a fleet of Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers and support ships years ahead of the current schedule and at a fraction the cost of Seaspan.The statement said the federal government did not respond to unsolicited proposals.— Follow @gwomand on TwitterNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the contract was for one ship. Workers watch as the main girder of a new 300-tonne gantry crane is lifted into place at Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 2, 2014. The federal government has topped up a West Coast shipbuilding contract by more than $65 million for a coast guard science vessel that needs a propulsion system and scientific equipment.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck by Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press Posted Mar 14, 2016 12:15 pm MDT Last Updated Mar 14, 2016 at 7:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Liberals add $30M to science vessel budget, say Tories lowballed initial estimate read more

Home sales down in Metro Vancouver Conference Board of Canada report

by The Canadian Press Posted Jul 22, 2016 10:26 am MDT Last Updated Jul 22, 2016 at 11:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Home sales down in Metro Vancouver: Conference Board of Canada report VANCOUVER – Home sales fell in Metro Vancouver for a fourth straight month in June, but aspiring homeowners shouldn’t celebrate yet — it’s still a seller’s market.A new report from the Conference Board of Canada says sales fell in 15 of 28 markets nationally, including Toronto and Montreal.The annual rate of sales in Metro Vancouver reached 44,688 homes last month, a 5.3 per cent drop from the previous month but a 5.1 per cent increase from a year before.Prices remained flat around the $1-million mark, but are still up 12 per cent from June 2015.Still, the report says sellers’ conditions prevail in Vancouver, as well as in Victoria and all southern Ontario markets.The Fraser Valley led price growth in the country with a year-over-year gain of 24 per cent, while price growth is slowing in the Lower Mainland.Listings rose in 17 areas, including a second straight monthly gain in Toronto and a year-over-year rise in Metro Vancouver.The ratio of sales to new listings dropped to 73 per cent after peaking at 90 per cent in February.Robin Wiebe, the senior economist who wrote the report, says a 73 per cent sales to new listings ratio is still very high and consistent with a seller’s market.“It does look like the market may be easing just a little bit. There’s hints that supply is starting to move up a little bit.”But while listings were up 3.5 per cent year over year in Metro Vancouver, they fell 1.4 per cent from the previous month.Wiebe says recent trends indicate that housing prices may have reached their peak.“The sales are backing off just a little bit and the listing are coming up just a little bit, so the market is moving ever so slightly,” he says.“It’s still a seller’s market but it’s not as extreme a seller’s market as it was late last year and early this year.” read more