First it was Peter MacKay. On Thursday, it was Prime Minister Stephen
Harper's turn to take a shot at the provincial government.
Harper came to Halifax to announce an agreement in principle has been
reached on the so-called umbrella agreement that sets the rules and conditions
for the next 25 years of contracts to build new ships for the Canadian
It also gave the Prime Minister a chance to surround himself with
hundreds of cheering shipyard workers - his first chance to get some political
mileage out of the $33 billion dollar ship procurement strategy.
Still, he couldn't resist a jab at the Dexter government. After
praising the Irving shipyard for winning the contract on its merits, without
politicial interference, Harper said, "slick ad campaigns were ignored by the
Now to be fair, he didn't mention the NDP government or the Ships
Starts Here campaign by name, but everyone in the room knew exactly what he was
It's not the first time a member of his government has ridiculed the
campaign. Shortly after the contact was awarded, Peter MacKay tried to downplay
its impact by saying the Dexter government might as well have poured the money
into the harbour.
You can see why the federal conservatives might be a little touchy.
When the announcement was made last October, all the pictures showed Darrell
Dexter celebrating with jubilant shipyard workers. There wasn't a Conservative
MP within miles of the shipyard that day. That's because the Harper government
went out of its way to make these contracts non-political. It appointed an
independent panel to examine the bids, and senior politicians weren't told the
winners until after they were chosen.
Thursday was a very different story.
As photo-ops go, this was
impressive. Hundreds of shipyard workers were positioned all around the Prime
Minister's stage. They stood on board ships, they were hanging on scaffolding,
and they cheered as the Prime Minister re-iterated his governments commitment
to Canada's shipbuilding industry. And before the announcement, select workers
started grinding and welding -- on cue -- while photographers and videographers
captured Harper visiting with workers on the shop floor.
Every Nova Scotia Conservative MP was in the VIP audience. Bernard
Valcourt, the minister responsible for ACOA, even made the trip from New
Brunswick. Mayor Peter Kelly was there, and even received a belated
acknowledgement from the Prime Minister. But no Darrell Dexter or any
member of his government.
There was one lone NDP politician in attendance. Sackville-Eastern Shore MP Peter
Stoffer, who has lobbied long and hard on behalf of the ship building industry,
stood quietly behind the VIP section, taking it all in. The Prime Minister did
not acknowledge his presence.