The Bluenose marathon

The Bluenose marathon has the potential to leave Nova Scotians breathless, weak and struggling across the finish line…and then there’s the race.


The saga to restore Nova Scotia’s most familiar icon, Bluenose II, is beginning to supersede the racing legend of the original Grand Banks Schooner. This tale however is not one rich in Canadian accomplishment, pride and celebration. This latest yarn is steeped more in bureaucracy, greed, bungling and ineptitude. It’s unlikely any catchy shanties will be written.

The old salts of Lunenburg are rightly concerned, skeptical and angry about what is being done to the pride of their shipyard. There are a group of folks who have been carefully watching what is going on with the restoration of Bluenose II. They don’t watch on webcams or read provincial media releases, they are much closer to the boat than that. Former crew, wooden ship builders…those who know their way around a waterfront. Word is, they don’t like what they are seeing and hearing.

Add to this, today, Kevin Lacey of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is releasing a number of documents outlining some of the goings on around the rebuild. The documents obtained through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act show some of the reasons behind the budget ballooning from $14,000,000 to over $17,000,000 and counting.

The project is managed by MHPM of Ottawa, a company that curiously doesn’t normally work in the shipbuilding sector. The CTF noted in December the project management contract was three times over budget and the meter was still ticking as Nova Scotians continue to fork over a $25,000 per month retainer in spite of the project being months overdue and millions over budget.

Interestingly, rebuilding a Canadian icon doesn’t warrant a spot on the front page of the MHPM website. Sea trials still won’t get underway until this spring.

So, we don’t have Percy Paris and Darrell Dexter to kick around on this file anymore but it must be clear to the Liberals they have a mess on their hands. The new Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister is Tony (Be Careful what You Wish For) Ince. I’m sure Tony is a nice fellow, but his background as a Community Services Counselor, sales rep and actor may not have prepared him to sort out this political, cultural and financial quagmire.

My guess is, this file may have had at least something to do with Kellianne Dean being asked to come back from the Public Service Commission and back into Communities, Culture and Heritage as Deputy Minister. She held this position for six years and is widely regarded as one of the brighter lights in the bureaucracy. Tony may need some help.

None the less, she and her rookie Minister may have some ‘splainin’ to do.

I don’t know much about buying big sailing ships, but is it really a yachting industry standard for boat builders to charge 43% markups on materials purchased that are changes from the original contract? Any chance the the Minister responsible could have negotiated some better terms?

They say you can get the same feeling of owning a sailboat by standing in a cold shower tearing up hundred-dollar bills, but there is no real reason taxpayers in this province should have this same sensation foisted up them. Mr. Lacey’s FOIPOP documents will make those of us who shop for bargains to make ends meet…just a little queasy. That familiar seasick feeling will come from reading the contract signed by Minister Paris and Peter Kinley, President and CEO of the Lunenburg Shipyard Alliance.

If I’m Seattle Seahawk’s owner Paul Allen, I suppose a 43% markup on these sorts of things going into my yacht wouldn’t feel out of line. However, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia are not Paul Allen and this unquestionably poor oversight of public money.So what does this “markup” mean in real terms. Here are a couple of examples Lacey noted.

  • A couple of years ago the delivery man dropped off a couple of washers and dryers. Cost to the builder, about $5,400. Cost to you and me, $7,722.
  • Some portholes were ordered in November of 2012. Cost to the builder about $12,950…cost to you and me? Just under $17,440.

Not exactly rollback day at Walmart.

So, who cares. Somebody is making a boatload of money from a government contract. What else is new?

Well, some questions have to be asked why this is happening and there are many other questions swirling around valuable materials taken from the original vessel. Who owns these and what happens to the proceeds from their sale?

What should be a proud moment for all Nova Scotians is awash in questions and problems. An internal review was ordered by Minister Ince and he says the results will be made public. Nice gesture but this might, as Lacey is rightly suggesting, be a job better suited for the incoming Auditor General.

Even as retiring AG Jacques LaPointe sails over the horizon, there are rumours afloat that this new iteration of the Bluenose II may not even be able to perform properly under canvass. According to some sources, the new rudder has required significantly more ballast to be added near the keel, limiting the vessel’s ability to sail per the original design specs.

Well, it might not win any races, but we still love Bluenose II and its legacy certainly deserves better than what we have seen delivered so far. As a point of pride, most Nova Scotians would agree that rebuilding Bluenose II as an ambassador is a good idea. It’s enormous value representing our province is hard to measure. But that is not a reason to ignore the potential for unnecessary profiteering by those doing the work.

My 50 cents worth.



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