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Ottawa delays plan for Arctic patrol boats Add to ...

The federal government has put off asking shipbuilders for ideas on the construction of a flotilla of Arctic patrol boats, a sign that the two-year-old program is in trouble.

The navy's project management office advised the defence industry on June 10 that the long-anticipated letters of intent had been delayed.

"The extent of the delay is unknown at this time," said the note obtained by The Canadian Press.

The navy's project office describes the postponement as a "glitch," but the officer in charge, navy Captain Eric Bramwell, declined to explain what the holdup might be.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in July, 2007, that the navy would acquire six to eight ice-capable vessels for nearly year-round operation in the Arctic. The announcement was a cornerstone of the Conservatives' northern strategy

At the time, the proposal was a step back from the 2005-06 Tory election promise to build three armed, heavy icebreakers to enforce Canada's northern sovereignty.

The Conservatives have said the Arctic is a priority as competition for boundaries and resources with other nations, particularly Russia, intensifies. But the heavy cost has increasingly given them pause.

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