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B.C. Jobs Minister happy to get either shipbuilding contract

Seaspan Shipyards workers listen as British Columbia Premier Christy Clark speaks at the shipyard in North Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday June 7, 2011.

Darryl Dyck For The Globe and Mail/darryl dyck The Globe and Mail

Jobs Minister Pat Bell says he is optimistic that B.C. will win a healthy slice of the work in the biggest round of federal government shipbuilding since the Second World War, expected to be announced Wednesday.

But he said B.C. should be happy to accept the smaller of the two contracts.

Seaspan Marine Corp. is bidding against shipyards in Nova Scotia and Quebec for two contracts - a $25-billion contract to build new fleet of warships, and an $8-billion deal for non-combat ships.

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"Either one we'd be very happy with," he told reporters Tuesday. "The benefits to British Columbia in terms of the non-combat contract are significant as well. A lot of the $25-billion in the combat portion of the contract relates to outfitting the ships, the guns and so for. So that may or may not create as much incremental benefit."

The B.C. government has offered $40-million in tax credits for apprenticeship and training programs, plus a research and development fund, if the company wins the bid. The package, however, falls short of the infrastructure tax credits that the company sought.

Mr. Bell said he won't accept any blame if the B.C. bid comes up short. "When you look at what the province did, it is very close to what Seaspan was asking for."

Premier Christy Clark's support package for the B.C. bid came just weeks before Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards had to submit its bid. In her first speech in the legislature as Premier, she pledged to campaign on behalf of the West Coast vessel construction industry.

"To the workers at Seaspan, I say: We're with you," she told the legislature in the spring. "To the company, I say: We're behind you. To the people of British Columbia, I say: We have the commitment because we recognize the benefits that this will bring to our entire province."

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