Cutting Steele

We know not everyone has time to tune into Legislative Television, particularly the Late Debates.  But we did not want anyone to miss these gems from Allan MacMaster, the Tory from Inverness, as he waxed philosophic about capitalism and “freedom” on Wednesday:

Allan MacMaster: I believe in capitalism. I have a business degree. I’m very much a believer in the free market, but this kind of activity where companies are just asking for handouts really bothers me, especially when we compare them to people who, say, fought for our country, who really gave us the freedom so that those companies could operate here with the freedoms they have here and be in an economy that is solid, where they can make money. That’s a blessing that they should be appreciative of. Instead, they don’t seem to be, because they just come to the government looking for a handout. 

Sadly, in addition to the strange juxtaposition of economic growth and supporting our troops, MacMaster joined the Liberals in attacking a specific company, in this case the Halifax Shipyard:

Allan MacMaster: What was particularly galling to me was Irving, because they won a taxpayer-funded contract. The taxpayers are already paying for this work to build those ships, and they need another $260 million. That equates to an extra 1 per cent profit margin on that contract for them. 

We expect better from the Tory backbench.  We do not see how joining the Liberals in this nasty business of slagging companies and their employees makes any political sense, no matter how much they might believe in the fanciful world of pure capitalism that MacMaster imagines.

More importantly, MacMaster shows that he, like Stephen McNeil, forgot how Nova Scotia won the ships contract. On Thursday MacMaster turned his attack to the government role in the bid:

Allan MacMaster: There was no need to pay Irving $260 million in terms of a forgivable loan. They won the tender to build the ships. They’re going to be making an enormous amount of money off that project. It’s a tremendously lucrative project for them- $30 billion over 25 years…taxpayers in Nova Scotia didn’t have to spend that money but this government chose to spend it for them.

Graham Steele: You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.

Not very polite of the former Finance Minister, we suppose. But Irving would not have won the contract if the NDP government did not invest in their yard. Does MacMaster actually know about how the bidding worked? Sadly, if you look to Hansard for an answer, you will be disappointed:

Allan MacMaster: From what I have heard, if you look at the examination of the bids, there was a factor – I believe it was worth seven points on the submission they made – that had to do with the company could have asked the federal government for money to help spruce up their infrastructure to complete the contract, and it was worth seven points. Well, Irving won this bid by more than seven points, so they didn’t need the handout that they got from the government.

Aside from the faulty logic at work (it was a competitive bidding process), is MacMaster right? Was it really only worth just seven points?

You don’t spot the other team 20 points on a $25 billion contract.

Not quite.  The “Cost to Canada” component counted for 20 out of 100 points in the bidding process set out by the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.  By MacMaster’s logic, Nova Scotia would have given up 20, not 7, points. And lost the bid.  It is like spotting another team a 20 point lead and expecting to come out on top.

We do not doubt Allan MacMaster believes the ship contract was a great win.  We just do not think he understands how the ships were won.