The minister has been thrown into the deep end with several multibillion-dollar military procurement projects
OTTAWA—A pair of relative political rookies—Seamus O’Regan and Carla Qualtrough has been tapped to guide one of the federal Liberal government’s most complex and politically sensitive portfolios: military procurement.
The appointment as Minister of Public Services and Procurement (Seamus O’Regan also became Veterans Affairs Minister) is a big jump, and Qualtrough will be wrestling with some difficult challenges even before the ink on the swearing-in papers has dried.
The former Paralympian and ex-sports and disabilities minister takes over from Judy Foote, the longtime Liberal MP who resigned from cabinet last week for family health reasons, at a time when the department is facing big challenges.
One is the ongoing effort to fix the federal government’s troubled Phoenix pay system, which has affected thousands of public servants and cost millions of dollars to fix—with no end in sight.
Yet Qualtrough is also being thrown into the deep end when it comes to several multibillion-dollar military procurement projects, with decisions looming on naval warships and interim fighter jets.
The fighter-jet file in particular is a potential landmine, as everyone waits to see whether the Liberals scrap their plans to buy 18 interim Super Hornets from U.S. aerospace giant Boeing.
That decision is expected to come down to whether the U.S. Commerce Department decides this month to penalize Canadian firm Bombardier, which Boeing has accused of unfair trade practices.
Qualtrough would not say Monday whether Canada still needs interim fighter jets to strengthen the air force’s aging CF-18 fleet until a full replacement can be purchased.
“I can tell you that having been in this job for an hour that it would be premature to come out and answer that question directly,” she said.
“But I can assure you as I get briefed up that the fighter jet file will be top on my plates and on my desk and I will be able to provide a more informed decision as soon as I’m briefed up.”