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Quebec's shipbuilding loss lays bare NDP caucus rift

The Davie shipyard, shown on Oct. 19, 2011 in Levis, Que., was shut out of $33-billion in federal contracts.

CLEMENT ALLARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The news that shipyards in Halifax and Vancouver will get decades of government work and billions of federal dollars has left the federal New Democrats divided.

Quebec was bypassed in Wednesday's much-anticipated announcement. And with 59 seats in that province – more than half its caucus – the NDP was obligated to express some disappointment.

Interim Leader Nycole Turmel, who is from Quebec, immediately denounced the decision saying it leaves her province vulnerable.

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"This is great news for Nova Scotia and British Columbia, and I congratulate them wholeheartedly. But Canada has the longest coastline in the world, making shipbuilding a critical strategic industry in all corners of this country," Ms. Turmel said.

"This government announcement leaves our Quebec-area shipbuilding in a more fragile position. The Conservatives have to do much more to ensure that Quebec shipbuilding capacity remains stable and that long-term skilled jobs are created."

But the NDP also has members in both Halifax and Vancouver. And some of them were more than a little happy to see their cities on the receiving end of good economic news.

Peter Stoffer, the Nova Scotia MP who has been his party's shipbuilding critic for more than a decade, was delighted. "We're very pleased," he said after the announcement. "This is a very good day for Canada."

No doubt the British Columbia New Democrats were equally approving.

The Conservatives also have MPs in all three regions. But they have largely insulated themselves from the criticism that the contracts were awarded in a partisan fashion by doing exactly what Mr. Stoffer had been urging – taking the matter out of political hands.

The responsibility for making the decision was left to a group of more than 20 civil servants who were watched over by a "fairness monitor."

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So, while New Democrats from Quebec would love to spend the next month railing at the government over the slight to their province, they will have to square that both with the apparent fairness of the process and with the joy being expressed by their own colleagues from East and West coasts.

Quebecor chief faces MPs as CBC fight intensifies

The CBC seems to be making as much news in Ottawa these days as it is reporting – not that the public broadcaster wants it that way.

On Thursday, the Conservatives will resume their attack on the Crown corporation for its unwillingness to release documents requested under access to information.

A large number of those requests came from the Sun Media, which has made the CBC a prime target of attack.

The Commons access to information, privacy and ethics committee will hear from Pierre Karl Péladeau, the president and chief executive officer of Quebecor, which owns Sun Media. Quebecor's vice-president of corporate and international affairs will also testify, as will Luc Lavoie, the head of development for Sun News.

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Conservative MPs on the committee had wanted to hear from two hosts of shows on the Sun News television network but they declined the invitation.

Then, later in the day, Hubert Lacroix, the president and chief executive officer of the CBC will appear before the Commons heritage committee to outline his organization's five-year-plan.

Quebecor has maintained a steady barrage against the $1-billion a year that the CBC receives in federal funding – a cause that has found some sympathy on the Conservative benches.

But the CBC fought back Wednesday saying Quebecor took in $500-million in public subsidies over the past three years without being accountable to taxpayers. Quebecor denies that figure and is threatening legal action.

Mr. Péladeau himself came out swinging after the CBC salvo, calling the public broadcaster's numbers misleading and distorted.

"Arriving as it does on the eve of our appearance before a parliamentary commission studying CBC/Radio-Canada's access to information shortcomings, one must question the motives behind this unprecedented effort on the part of a Crown corporation to attack a large company in its sector," Mr. Péladeau said in a release.

The ethics committee should be a lively affair.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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