OTTAWA – Canada’s International Trade Tribunal says the federal government should reassess its decision to award a contract for two emergency towing vessels off the coast of British Columbia.
The $67-million contract was awarded by Public Services and Procurement Canada in August to Atlantic Towing Ltd. and the boats are now in operation. They are to be used on contract by the Canadian Coast Guard to tow away broken-down vessels in B.C. waters before they become hazards to other boats and marine life.
In September a complaint was made to the trade tribunal by Horizon Maritime Services and the Heiltsuk Nation, which had formed a partnership to bid on the contract together.
Horizon and Heiltsuk allege Public Services didn’t properly assess all the requirements it set out for the boats.
The tribunal agrees and recommends the department take a fresh look at one of the specific safety requirements to ensure the towing vessels can safely pull the required weight.
The tribunal recommends the contract continue during the reassessment but says if another bid actually was stronger than Atlantic Towing’s, the contract should be terminated.
If the best bid is determined to have come from Horizon and Heiltsuk, they should be compensated for any money they lost out on in the process, the tribunal’s ruling says.
Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett says winning the contract would be a huge economic help to her community.
A spokesman for Public Services said the department is still reviewing the tribunal’s decision, and won’t comment further. Pierre-Alain Bujold said in an email that the vessels will continue operating pending a decision on how to proceed. He noted one of the boats has already been used in an emergency.
The towing vessels are one of the key elements of the federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan. The $1.5-billion plan is critical to the government’s hope to convince Canadians it can expand the economy, including by building new oil and gas pipelines, and still protect the environment.