OTTAWA — The feds have adopted a new strategy for buying equipment and vehicles for the military and coast guard, promising faster results, a bigger boost for the Canadian economy and more accountability.
"I'm pledging to you today that we're going to be managing things differently and better," Public Works Minister Diane Finley said Wednesday. "It means that when it comes to my portfolio's direct responsibility in the area of defence procurement, the buck stops right here."
Despite her pledge, Finley fled from reporters after her announcement and refused to answer media questions.
Military purchases have been a difficult file for the Conservatives who have been forced to restart the CF-18 fighter jet replacement process, cancel the purchase of close combat vehicles and deal with long delays in finding new search-and-rescue airplanes.
So, Finley unveiled a new strategy that includes a new defence procurement secretariat to handle major purchases, similar to the process that has bureaucrats handling Navy shipbuilding and fighter jet replacements.
Starting in June, National Defence will also publish annual reports outlining future planned purchases.
Finley says industrial benefits will get more serious consideration in the new strategy, but warns that doesn't mean automatic business for Canadian companies.
"This is not a buy in Canada under all circumstances, even if it doesn't make sense strategy," she said.
Tim Page, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), says he supports the new strategy.
He also faced questions about whether he was confident the new process would actually result in faster, more economical military purchases.
"In principle, absolutely," said Page. "The devil, as they say, is in the detail and it will be up to the implementation."
NDP defence critic Jack Harris slammed the new strategy.
"Today's announcement now spreads oversight of this (procurement) mess over four ministers," he said..