Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The Davie shipyard is seem in Levis, Que., on Dec. 14, 2018.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Ottawa could buy two converted civilian vessels from a Quebec shipyard to serve as support ships for the Royal Canadian Navy for a fraction of the cost of building brand new ones, according to Parliament’s budget watchdog.

In a new report released Tuesday, parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux estimates the price of buying the two converted container ships from Chantier Davie would be around $1.4 billion.

That compares to around $4.1 billion to build two brand-new joint support ships, the first of which is already under construction in Vancouver and slated for delivery in 2023.

Story continues below advertisement

The findings follow years of heavy lobbying from Davie, which has been leasing one of the two converted civilian vessels to the Navy since 2018 and wants Ottawa to move ahead with the second. The first is known as MV Asterix and the second as MV Obelix.

The federal government has been resisting those calls despite pressure from the shipyard, opposition parties and the Quebec government, and instead pressed ahead with work on the new joint support ships.

Giroux estimates the government has so far spent $1 billion on the new vessels, which are being built by Seaspan Marine.

The budget officer could not comment on whether the two joint support ships to be built in Vancouver are more capable than the MV Asterix and MV Obelix, saying such comparisons were outside the scope of his review, which was requested by a parliamentary committee.

Giroux also didn’t quantify the potential benefits to Canada’s economy from building two new vessels rather than buying the Asterix and Obelix. They were built in Germany about a decade ago.

Instead, he said it is up to the federal government and Department of National Defence to explain why spending more money to build two new ships makes more sense than buying the two converted vessels from Davie.

“It may well be that it totally makes sense,” Giroux told reporters Tuesday during a technical briefing. “But the experts at DND would presumably be in a good position or should be in a good position to make that point with parliamentarians and the Canadian public.”

Story continues below advertisement

At the same time, Giroux acknowledged it is unlikely the government will cancel plans to build the two new ships in Vancouver, given the amount of time and money already invested in the project. The second ship is due to be finished around 2025.

The Defence Department defended its plan to build the two new support ships in an unsigned statement on Tuesday as it listed a number of ways in which they are different from the Davie vessels.

Those include systems to avoid mines, protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, a better propulsion system, a bigger helicopter hangar and more self-defence capabilities.

“When sending our sailors into dangerous situations, we insist on providing them with the best and safest equipment possible,” the department said.

“MV Asterix and the proposed MV Obelix do not have the same capabilities as the future joint support ships. The joint support ships were designed to be able to deploy into harm’s way, a key element of the military design.”

Davie has previously pushed back against assertions its vessels are less capable, noting MV Asterix has been sailing alongside and providing support to numerous Canadian warships around the world over the past two years.

Story continues below advertisement

The Quebec shipyard was quick to welcome Giroux’s report on Tuesday as evidence of value of the MV Asterix and Obelix – and why Ottawa should move ahead on buying both.

“It has also previously been widely acknowledged that Canada needs four supply ships to meet its growing operational requirements,” Davie spokesman Frederik Boisvert said in an e-mail.

“There is, therefore, a clear and compelling case for Canada to exercise its purchase options for both the Asterix, and future Obelix.”

Canadian Taxpayers Federation director Aaron Wudrick also welcomed the report given Ottawa’s current financial situation.

“Given the new fiscal world we live in, we’re looking at every way the government could potentially save money, especially on non-COVID-related spending,” Wudrick said in an e-mail.

“Procurement is a big-ticket place to look for such savings.”

Story continues below advertisement

Plans to build new joint support ships for the Navy first started in 2004, with the aim of having three new vessels in the water by 2012. However, the project ran into numerous delays and cost overruns before being restarted about 10 years ago.

The resulting competition for the contract to build the two new vessels as well as a series of new ships for the Canadian Coast Guard saw Seaspan beat out Davie in October 2011.

In the meantime, the Navy was forced to retire its two previous support ships earlier than expected due to excessive corrosion on one and a fire on the other, leaving the military with a major gap in its ability to resupply vessels at sea.

To fill the gap, former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government awarded Davie a sole-source contract worth $700 million in 2015 to convert the MV Asterix into an interim support ship.

That contract, which was at the heart of the failed prosecution of retired vice-admiral Mark Norman, was finalized by the newly elected Trudeau government in 2016.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies