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HomeBusinessAnalysis: After Seaspan runs flattering ad campaign, Trudeau repays the favour by ordering more ships

Analysis: After Seaspan runs flattering ad campaign, Trudeau repays the favour by ordering more ships


Bob Mackin

It pays to advertise and say nice things about the federal Liberal government in an election year.

Case in point: North Vancouver’s Seaspan Corp.

PM’s May 22 announcement in Vancouver (Twitter)

In March, Seaspan promoted its role in the $39 billion National Shipbuilding Strategy with radio ads on Vancouver’s CKNW and News 1130. It also launched five YouTube videos, which have fewer than 1,000 views, combined. wanted to know how much the ads were costing taxpayers and whether the federal government had approved of them.

“Public Services and Procurement Canada is aware of Seaspan advertisements but does not review or approve any of their messages,” spokesman Charles Drouin said by email. “Under contracts with Seaspan, some advertising expenditures are eligible to be included within general overhead costs negotiated with the Government of Canada.”

Drouin cited recruitment advertising in trade, technical or institutional journals as an example.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in a Seaspan corporate video (Seaspan)

Seaspan spokesman James Mitchell said the company does not disclose information regarding budget, schedule, design or consultations of its advertising program.

“We feel the ads speak for themselves. Seaspan is paying for them,” Mitchell said. “We feel it is important that the community and our stakeholders know what we are doing and how the National Shipbuilding Strategy is helping to grow the marine sector in B.C., is creating thousands of jobs and is delivering great economic benefits to the province.”

One of the videos shows Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan shaking hands with workers in slow motion at the North Vancouver shipyard. Another video, called “More than Ships,” touts economic benefits of $850 million in contracts to more than 540 Seaspan suppliers. In the “Teamwork Builds Ships” video, Seaspan promotes its diverse workforce. An unnamed worker in an office addresses the camera: “I do not only see myself as working for Seaspan, I see myself as working with the Government of Canada and people of Canada.” All messages that can only put smiles on the faces of the ruling party, which is not assured of ruling beyond the Oct. 21 election. 

SNC-Lavalin truck in Yaletown, outside a Liberal May 22 fundraiser

Less than two months after the radio campaign aired and videos were published, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared May 22 in front of cameras in Vancouver, with a Coast Guard vessel and North Vancouver in the background. Another $15.7 billion would be spent on as many as 18 ships for the Coast Guard and Navy. All but two could be built by Seaspan. The others by Irving in Halifax. 

Seaspan already has a deal to build 17 non-combat vessels. The initial $7 billion order for three ships suffered welding flaws.

Mission accomplished for Seaspan and its pre-election ad campaign.

One of the objectives of the announcement on May 22 for the Prime Minister’s Office was to change the channel from the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Easier said than done.

Outside the Opus Hotel in Yaletown, where Trudeau lunched with $250-a-plate party donors, was an SNC-Lavalin pickup truck. Most likely in the area for maintenance at a nearby station on the SNC-Lavalin-operated Canada Line. 

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