Flight deck of Sea King June 25, 1978


Helicopter Fiasco:
Taxpayers and Forces Pay the Price for Liberal Vanity

Ottawa - Saturday, March 9, 2002 - by: Walter Robinson, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation


In 1993, the Liberals rode to power by promising to cancel the GST, roll back NAFTA, restore integrity to public life and cancel the PCís $5.8 billion, 43 unit, EH-101 helicopter contract. Of course the GST is still with us, Mr. Chretien is now a big free-trader and when it comes to integrity, just think of names like Dupuy, Minna, Fry, and Gagliano Ö enough said.




Sadly, the one area where a promise was kept was on the helicopter file. In fairness, Canada did not have the fiscal capacity in 1993 to buy 43 helicopters at a price tag of $5.8 billion. But there was and is no doubt about the operational need for new whirlybirds. Now, nine years later, this need is even more acute.



30 year old
Sea Kings

The original Tory contract was for 15 new EH-101s for search and rescue (replacing the Labrador fleet) and another 28 EH-101s to replace the Navyís aging Sea Kings. These Sea Kings ó 41 in total ó were delivered between 1963 and 1969 and some were already 30 years old by 1993.



30 / 1

Since 1963, 11 choppers and seven lives have been lost in Sea King crashes. It now takes over 30 hours of maintenance for each hour a Sea King spends in the air. And there have been six emergency landings of Sea Kings in the last year alone.




Nonetheless, Chretien and crew cancelled the contract in 1993 at cost of $500 million to taxpayers. And it wasnít until 1998 that Team Cormorant (the EH by another name) was awarded a $790 million contract to replace the 15 Labradors. To date, four units have been delivered, two more are en-route from Italy and all will be in hand by late 2003.




Under the original Tory deal, the choppers would have been delivered starting in 1997 with all 43 in operation by 2003. But the expected delivery date for first of the 28 units (valued at $2.9 billion) needed by our Navy is 2005 at the earliest.




In the hunt for this $2.9 billion deal are Team Cormorant, Sikorsky, Eurocopter and NH Industries. The procurement itself has been mired with the usual competition between bidders but has been made worse by the governmentís dithering.




Ottawa has insisted in splitting the procurement into two parts, one for airframes and the other for internal avionics components. This will move delivery from 2005 back to 2007 and will cost taxpayers an extra $400 million: $180 million for project and contracting overhead and an extra $220 million in risk liabilities.



than old
Sea King

To make matters worse, the contract specifications now on the street ask for shorter endurance times, slower cruising speeds, lighter weight loads and minimal hovering capacity during crisis periods than even the Sea King could perform in its heyday. Apparently King Jean C. and his truth challenged Minister, Art Eggleton, believe that saddling our troops with a helicopter for 25 years that canít even match a brand-new Sea King is good public policy. Well itís not: itís an absolute disgrace!



old story

Mr. Eggleton is destined to match WWI Col. Sam Hughes in the incompetence file. It was Mr. Hughes who gave us the Ross Rifle, a pull-back bolt design that killed our own soldiers! It wasnít even made for military use and had to be replaced midway through the war. This helicopter fiasco also reminds us of the early 1990s Griffon debacle: a civilian helicopter design that couldnít carry soldiers and their equipment at the same time.

cost more
Tory deal

It costs the military an extra $60 million/year to keep the Sea Kings in operation. Over fifteen years of delay this will add up to an extra $900 million. Add this to $500 million in cancellation costs, $790 million for the first Cormorant contract and now at least $3.3 billion for 28 new choppers and you get a cost of at least $5.5 billion. The Liberal government is doing its best to stall this process and its own backbenchers admit as much, sadly it is taxpayers and our depleted military that will pay for this vanity.
  Walter Robinson
Federal Director
  Candadian Taxpayers Federation web site