OTTAWA - Six years after announcing a sole-source deal to buy 15 battlefield helicopters and three years after signing the contract, the Harper government has finally sat down with Boeing to talk about how much it will cost to support the aircraft.
Haggling over the service price tag came as the U.S. defence giant announced it had already selected General Dynamics Canada to provide engineering support to the CH-147F heavy-lift choppers, which shuttle troops and equipment.
Internal documents show the air force was eager to see a deal cut over a year ago, in the summer of 2011, and listed the support contract as one of the major risks and uncertainties in the $4.9 billion program.
The Chinook purchase, originally intended to support troops fighting in Afghanistan, was red-flagged by former auditor general Sheila Fraser two years ago for delays and a 70 per cent spike in price between 2006 and 2010.
The officer in charge of the program, Col. Carl Doyon, says the support contract couldn't be negotiated until Boeing had fulfilled its industrial commitments to the Canadian government, which was only done recently.
The fact the government is only now at the negotiating table scares opposition MPs, who say the Harper government's sole-sourced deal has left taxpayers with very little leverage.