Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says he's not sure how Ontario and Quebec will combine their bids for Ottawa's $35-billion national shipbuilding contract in time for next week's deadline.
Originally it was a four-way battle of shipyards in Halifax, Vancouver, Lévis, Que., and St. Catharines, Ont.
The financially troubled Davie Yards in Quebec is in talks with the owners of Seaway Marine in Ontario in an effort to present a stronger joint bid.
Just days before the deadline for bids, the shipyards from Quebec and Ontario joined forces Wednesday to try to get the work.
"We are one week away from the bid deadline, and how do two companies come together? How do they put together a quality bid in that short a time? Well, that's what I think is the fundamental question," said Dexter on Friday.
The federal government had been asked to provide a two-month extension, but granted two weeks, enough time for the Ontario and Quebec yards to get together.
Public Works Canada justified the extension on the grounds it would maximize competition, though it wouldn't explain how a process to maximize competitiveness squares with an outcome of fewer bidders.
Halifax Shipyard spokeswoman Mary Keith declined to respond. "Our focus is on submitting a winning bid in compliance with the terms of RFP and the July 21, 2011, deadline. We have no comment regarding the situation at Davie at this time."
Dexter said the joint bid was a sign of weakness among Halifax's rivals.
"It does speak to the wider question of whether or not either of those companies have the facilities and the ability to be able to meet the contract," he said.
"I think the confusion around their bid kind of speaks for itself. We've taken the view that our bid is not contingent on someone else's bid failing, it's about our bid succeeding.
"We need to focus to make sure we have the strongest possible bid," said Dexter. "The preparations have all been completed … and we just think we're going to have the best bid."
The deadline for bids is next Thursday.