Monday, January 30, 2006

Liberal's helicopter cockup may cost taxpayer $1 billion

From the Regina Leader Post:

Stephen Harper's new government could face a $1-billion legal penalty after a European aerospace firm filed a claim for damages, citing political interference by the Liberals during the 2004 purchase of naval helicopters.

Aerospace giant Agusta-Westland recently filed the $1-billion claim for damages in Federal Court, alleging its EH-101 helicopter didn't win the competition to provide Canada's military with a maritime chopper because of political interference by the Liberal government.

In reading the rest of the article, it seems this company has already benefitted to the tune of $470 million at the expense of the Canadian taxpayer, when the Liberals scrapped a previous contract to buy EH-101 helicopters. Maybe they think this is an easy way to make a billion, in which case, the Harper government should fight this case fiercely.
Cancelling the EH-101 contract was one of the first things Chretien did when he came to power in the fall of 1993. At the time his government paid more than $470 million in cancellation fees to scuttle the deal.

But in 1998 the Chretien government was embarrassed when the EH-101 was once again selected by the Canadian Forces as the best chopper for its search-and-rescue operations. Fifteen of those helicopters were bought for that role.

Agusta-Westland lawyer Gordon Cameron said no timetable has yet been set for the legal proceedings, but the firm is hoping to start the process of questioning government officials for the lawsuit sometime this summer.

"We're aiming for a September trial," he added.

Agusta-Westland had filed a previous claim in Federal Court alleging government bias in the helicopter selection process. This latest move adds the $1-billion claim for damages.

In its statement of claim, Agusta-Westland contends the Liberal government wanted to ensure the EH-101 didn't win the Sea King replacement contract because it wanted to avoid political embarrassment. The firm alleges the Liberals were worried that if the EH-101 did win, the government would be accused of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in cancelling the first deal.
On the other hand, this sounds like classic Liberal behaviour, bending the rules to cover their own asses. Unfortunately, there will probably be many more stories like this coming to light showing the huge waste of taxpayer's money.

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