Bluenose II cost probe requested by Nova Scotia government
Office of the auditor general asked to review over-budget project
The Nova Scotia government is asking the auditor general's office to delve into the cost overruns and delays in the rebuild of the Bluenose II as the premier called it a "boondoggle" project.
Premier Stephen McNeil said his government submitted a letter Thursday asking for an audit to be completed some time during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
"We know this has been a boondoggle," he said after a cabinet meeting.
"From the day we came into power, we've dealt with this. Our No. 1 focus is to get that boat in the water."
The high-profile restoration project is two years behind schedule and more than $4 million over budget. The original budget for the project was $12.5 million and the latest estimate stands at $16.7 million, but the government has admitted labour costs will push that amount higher.
The Nova Scotia government has invested more than $16 million in the iconic schooner's refit.
Lawsuits and management infighting have also delayed the project. McNeil said a mediator has been called in to settle disputes between the project manager and the Lunenburg Shipbuilding Alliance — the shipbuilding consortium hired to do the work.
"We sent a clear direction to the lawyers in our province and Justice Department to deal with the lawsuit, to begin negotiations of finding a settlement," said McNeil.
"We made it clear between the project manager and the builder, the discrepancies need to be dealt with and we have a mediator dealing with that issue now. We want that boat in the water this spring."
McNeil also said he plans to launch a website to answer questions about the project.
"There was zero good will, quite frankly, on any front," he said.
"There had been no leadership driven by the former minister when it came to this file. I'm very proud of the work that's been happening under [Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage] Tony Ince and the direction that the civil service is moving in to solve some of these challenges."
Earlier this week, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released documents showing the Lunenburg-based consortium rebuilding the vessel has routinely added hefty markups on the bills it submits to the provincial government.
The Bluenose II, launched in 1963, is a replica of the original Bluenose, the 1921 Grand Banks fishing schooner that won worldwide acclaim for its graceful lines and speed.
Nova Scotia's 43-metre sailing ambassador was supposed to return to regular sailing in the summer of 2012 after an extensive two-year rebuild.
With files from The Canadian Press