Putting Lego Pieces together is NOT a National Shipbuilding Strategy

The national shipbuilding strategy is a failure. It must be stopped now, while there is still time.

As a former naval engineering officer, I have long suspected we could “lend – lease” an entire US Carrier Strike Group or other primary fighting vessels if we just bothered to ask the Americans. They have 11+ CSGs and many other "near carriers". They have the ship building infrastructure in place and would likely welcome the idea.

We'd need a navy of around 20,000 and the budget to pay the Americans for maintenance, refits, and ongoing regular vessel replacements. It would be infinitely more effective than this program. With one CSG we would instantly become the second most powerful navy on Earth. Yes, the US would be in charge; but guess what, with the possible exception of submarines, no allied naval vessel goes anywhere on this planet without US Navy central coordination. The Americans are our friends, our relatives, and our neighbours. We work with them on every major global initiative, why not work with them to ensure our military equipment procurement process is coherent and effective?

Having the Royal Canadian Navy operate a US carrier strike group may be a bit of a stretch, who knows? Astute readers of the National Post may recall that Lord Black made the same proposal a couple of years ago. The point is to shift the discussion. We need to start thinking about getting the best possible weapon systems for our troops, not regional economic development or “Canadian content” that does nothing but enrich the elites while starving our military of the equipment needed to accomplish its many missions.

Even if we "build" fighting ships, virtually all the capital equipment that really matters, radars, guns, missiles, torpedos, and much of the ship's machinery systems will not be designed or built in Canada. They will be acquired from a select list of our allies like individual lego blocks. You can’t just “will” a military industrial complex into being. Engineering doesn’t work that way. It takes trillions of dollars and decades to develop. For whatever reason, Canada does not have anywhere near the technical expertise or industrial scale to properly design and build warships, tanks, fighter planes, or the complex weapon systems carried by these machines.

Any shipyard in Canada is essentially just providing a Lego assembly service in return for tripling the costs of vessels built by an ally. There is no "value added" in slapping lego blocks together in a Halifax shipyard. It won't magically create a Silicon "Annapolis Valley", it won't lead to new dynamic businesses, and it sure as hell won't benefit the young (they are so young) men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy who risk their lives every time a warship slips out to sea. The idea that we need a "strategic" fighting ship building capacity is Laugh Out Loud-able! We are attached at the hip to our allies, and have been since WW2... and that is a good thing for everyone.

We are a free, wealthy, and extraordinarily capable people. Let's focus our efforts on growing the Canadian private sector economy and supporting the troops. We can afford to pay our friends to help us maintain the infrastructure needed to deploy an effective fighting force.

Somehow I suspect our politicians, powerful union bosses, and one percenter elites will continue to do just fine for themselves…

John D. Downing, MBA, P.Eng. Contact

Like this and want to read more? click here to read the long winded version! "Time yet for a Hundred Indecisions"