Nova Scotia

Final bill for rebuilding Bluenose II? $24M

The final tally of the cost to rebuild Nova Scotia's sailing ambassador is $24 million, that's about $10 million dollars more than the original estimate.

Original estimate lowballed by $10M; rudder work alone cost more than $1M

In 2014, Premier Stephen McNeil called the refit a "boondoggle" as its budget soared and delays piled up. (CBC)

Eight years after the refit was announced, Nova Scotia taxpayers finally know the official cost of rebuilding the Bluenose II: $24 million. 

That's about $10 million more than the original estimate.

The Nova Scotia government has broken down the $24,289,855 price tag:

  • Capital funding for the rebuild: $21,151,565.
  • Costs related to a legal settlement with the Lunenburg Shipbuilding Alliance: $2,030,000.
  • Hydraulic steering system retrofitted to manage steel rudder: $592,425.
  • Replacing steel rudder with wooden one: $515,865.

Government has learned lessons

Shannon Delbridge, executive director of public works with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, praised a report from the province's auditor general when asked what the government had learned from the over-budget, long-overdue project.

The 2015 report highlighted the fact the Progressive Conservative government of Rodney MacDonald fast-tracked the famed schooner's refit in a bid to get Ottawa to cover half of the project. In the end, the federal government only contributed $4.9 million. 

Faced with a project of a similar scope and profile, Delbridge suggested a future government might tread more carefully.

"Going a little bit slower in terms of the planning process," she said. "And I think that we've learned that in the future we certainly want to do that."

'Boondoggle' project

The auditor general's report into the refit's many cost overruns and delays came after Premier Stephen McNeil memorably referred to the project as a "boondoggle" in January 2014.

In his report, Auditor General Michael Pickup severely criticized the province for its lack of planning and the fact the project was originally handed over to the Department of Culture and Heritage, which had no experience with a project of this scale.

"It was highly unlikely that the Bluenose II project would meet the initial completion schedule or budget, due to the lack of project planning," Pickup wrote in his report.

"The initial budget of $14.4 million was not based on detailed cost estimates, and did not include significant cost drivers, but was used as the project budget." 

Something to be proud of

In the end, Delbridge said shuffling the rebuild over to her department — which is no stranger to large-scale projects — made the most sense.

Asked if the department was eager to undertake another wooden boat project, Delbridge laughed.

"I think we have a lot of experience now if we were to build a wooden boat again," she said.

"But I know that we've built a ship that's going to last us for 50 years and she's going to be working hard to make Nova Scotians proud, so I'm assuming we will not be building another wooden ship any time soon."


Jean Laroche


Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter since 1987. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.


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