Davie shipyard poised to supply new icebreakers for coast guard

The struggling Quebec-based Davie shipyard is in line to help the Canadian Coast Guard meet its needs for more icebreakers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says negotiations are set to begin Friday morning

Davie shipyard has offered to loan four of its powerful icebreakers to help out the coast guard. (Marc Godbout/Radio-Canada)

The struggling Quebec-based Davie shipyard is in line to help the Canadian Coast Guard with its need for more icebreakers.

"I can say that we know very well that the work Davie has done is of great quality, workers are excellent and we need icebreakers for the coast guard," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau made the announcement in an interview Thursday morning with Radio-Canada's Première heure in Quebec City, where he will be holding a town hall later today.

The coast guard's aging icebreaker fleet has been a source of concern for at least two years. Last October, internal documents prepared for the federal government warned that not replacing the icebreakers could put thousands of jobs and port activities at risk.

Talks between the coast guard and Davie are set to begin Friday morning, according to Trudeau.

The federal government is hoping to meet the coast guard's needs at a "reasonable price for taxpayers," he added.

"It's good news," he said. "We're entering negotiations but we think we will be able to find a solution."

Aging icebreakers

After a mechanical break kept icebreaker Terry Fox from providing assistance to a trapped ferry between Quebec City and Lévis during the cold snap earlier this month, Davie offered to loan four of its powerful ships to the coast guard.

The four icebreakers are currently located in Europe and Florida.

Frédérik Boisvert, the spokesperson for the company, said at the time the incident shows that the coast guard's current icebreakers are at the end of their life cycle.

"The federal fleet is rusting so quickly that it can only be replaced," he said.
A coast guard icebreaker had an equipment break earlier this month near Quebec City. It had to be repaired. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Davie, which is based in Lévis, has also been urging Ottawa to step in and provide another government contract.

The company, which has been slowly recovering since almost going bankrupt five years ago, laid off nearly 400 employees right before Christmas.

Nicolas Samson, the union delegate at Davie, said he welcomed the news, but hopes employees will have more work in the future.

"It's true that I'm worried," he said. "If there aren't contracts coming in then I don't know where we are headed."

With files from Radio-Canada's Première heure