the house

Is Ottawa heading for another military procurement disaster?

The Liberal government has a new rule book for judging procurement competitions — they're just not sure what's in it. Along with announcing the long-awaited launch of the competition to replace the country's aging CF-18s on Tuesday, the Liberal government also revealed its intention to evaluate all future defence purchases through the lens of whether individual companies have helped or hurt the overall Canadian economy.
General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff (left to right) Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Carla Qualtrough, minister of public services and procurement, Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development and Marc Garneau, minister of transport make an announcement on fighter jets at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Listen12:45

The Liberal government has a new rule book for judging procurement competitions — they're just not sure what's in it.

Along with announcing the long-awaited launch of the competition to replace the country's aging CF-18s on Tuesday, the Liberal government also revealed its intention to evaluate all future defence purchases through the lens of whether individual companies have helped or hurt the overall Canadian economy.

Carla Qualtrough, minister of public services and procurement, said they're still hammering out what the criteria will be and how heavily it will be weighed when deciding who ultimately will make Canada's next fleet of fighter jets.

"We're going to work over the next year to really flesh that out with industry, with suppliers, with experts," she told The House.

"We haven't come down to the technical details."

Already analysts have flagged potential political, trade, legal and even military consequences.

Dave Perry, an analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute who follows the procurement file, said lawyers could have a field day with that.

"When you get down to the nuts and bolts, the government is going to draw up with a naughty and nice list for whether company A or B is helping or hurting the Canadian economy," he said.

A Canadian F-18 Hornet fighter jet flies near Italy’s Trapani Birgi air base on March 19. (Marcello Paternostro/AFP/Getty)

Perry said unless the government comes up with some "mathematical formula based on market evidence," the policy would inject a "degree of subjectivity" into contracts that companies can contest either in court or before international trade tribunals.

"Oh, this has elements of subjectivity for sure and we can't avoid that," said Qualtrough

The self-described "minister of process" said they'll likely flesh out the criteria between finalizing the suppliers list and formalizing the request for proposal.

Qualtrough said the party has consulted with government lawyers.

"We of course wouldn't be announcing a policy direction if we didn't think it was legally prudent to take this direction," she said.

With the Liberal government planning to purchase used F-18 fighter jets from Australia, is the federal government heading for another procurement disaster? The Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Carla Qualtrough, joins us. 12:45