The Liberal government’s plan to build two icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard could cost as much as $7.25 billion, the country’s Parliamentary Budget Office said today.
The plan to construct the vessels was unveiled last May, ahead of last summer’s federal election.
The decision was intended to fulfil a promise made more than a dozen years ago by the former Conservative government to build one polar-class icebreaker at Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver.
The Liberals upped the ante and promised to build a second vessel at Davie Shipbuilding in Levis, Que., once the company was formally admitted to the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
The last federal government estimate for one heavy icebreaker dates back to 2013 and the price tag at that time was $1.3 billion.
The Liberal government did not release an estimate when it unveiled its plan last spring. At the time, Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, who is responsible for the coast guard, said price tags will be released once contracts are negotiated with the individual yards.
PBO estimates construction would start in 2023-24
But Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux had a go at the numbers and projected management costs of $346 million, design costs of $820 million and construction costs of $6.1 billion.
The PBO estimate assumes that construction would start in the 2023-24 budget year, and the last ship would be delivered and the project completed by 2031.
However, none of the federal government’s shipbuilding projects have been delivered on time and many have exceeded their projected budgets.
When the dual ship project was announced, the Bloc Quebecois accused the Liberals of playing politics by dividing the work between two yards in different parts of the country where they were canvassing for votes.
The accusation was hotly denied by the Liberals, who insisted the addition of the second vessel was about securing the Arctic, providing support for remote communities and maintaining a year-round presence in the Far North.
The new icebreakers are meant to replace the aging heavy icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent.