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How Ottawa will reveal shipbuilding winners to yards, Tories and public

A government-issue sedan will pull up to Parliament Hill Wednesday as part of the big reveal of the largest procurement package in Canadian history.

Federal bureaucrats start telephoning Canadian shipyards at 3 p.m. ET to tell them whether they win a share of a $33-billion bounty of vessel construction contracts.

The Harper government, meanwhile, won't learn the names of the winners until about 3:30 p.m. because politicians have deliberately firewalled themselves out of the process of picking winners for this massive procurement package.

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At 3:30, a senior civil servant will hand Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose a news release that tells her who won the work packages to build $25-billion of combat vessels and $8-billion of non-combat ships.

Shipyards are sitting by the telephone in places such as Halifax, Levis, Que. and Vancouver to learn whether they're awarded a share of the bounty.

After breaking the good and bad news to rival yards, a senior Public Works bureaucrat will get into the deputy minister's car and cross the Ottawa river bound for Parliament Hill.

Once there, he'll hand Ms. Ambrose the news release, making her the first elected official anywhere in Canada to know the results of the bidding contest.

The awards will be made public shortly after 4 p.m. ET during a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa.

Bids for the work closed July 21 and a decision on the winners was only finalized in recent days.

In shipbuilding, the Conservatives went to great lengths to protect the competition from accusations of political influence and ensure the yards were chosen based on the best bids.

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The identities of the five bidding yards were hidden and instead coded A, B and C during the review process.

To minimize political favouritism – and damage – this time, the Tories created a team of worker-level civil servants to make the decision, with their outcome not subject to cabinet reviews.

Before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, officials say, only three people knew the winners: two director-level bureaucrats and the "fairness monitor" hired to scrutinize the process.

A group of deputy ministers scrutinized the process but was reading documents where the shipyards were still identified only by their alphabetic code letters.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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