A Carleton Place-based technology firm has landed a major $38.7 million defence contract that will see 40 jobs created in the town.
Associate National Defence Minister Bernard Valcourt made the announcement DRS Technologies Canada Ltd.’s Emily Street facility on Friday, Nov. 30 for the company to manufacture 13,624 communication selector boxes and 4,937 power distribution units, which will be put into the Canadian Armed Forces tactical vehicle network.
“It is essential to the safety of our men and women in uniform,” said Valcourt during the press conference. “They play an important role in protecting us. In doing so, they put themselves at risk. We have a responsibility to give them the tools to keep them safe so that they can return home safely to their families.”
Valcourt promised that the new technology would increase the speed with which troops in the field were able to transmit and receive information, which “is critical to our troops. It can literally mean the difference between life and death. Imagine a solider being warned ahead of time of danger to his convoy.”
DRS beat out five other Canadian companies in a competitive bidding process for the contract, which they received earlier this year.
“This was an open and transparent bidding process,” said Valcourt.
The New Brunswick MP also noted that there were “ripple effects of defence procurements,” for the whole community, beyond the defence industry.
“This is something we don’t talk enough about,” Valcourt said.
The announcement was welcome news to the company’s general manager and vice president, Steve Zuber.
“I’d say today is a special day,” said Zuber. “I feel two feet above the ground right now.”
Zuber pointed out that his company helped develop the deployable cockpit voice recorder or black box as it is more commonly known, back in the 1960s. The company has gone on to develop shipboard communication systems for navies in Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea, as well as infrared tracking systems which are in place on the Halifax series of ships as part of anti-ship missile defences.
He noted that the new components being made in Carleton Place will be utilizing battle-hardened technology gleaned from experiences in Afghanistan, where their technology was also used during the 2001-2011 military mission there.
“With the electronics manufacturing we do for rugged terrain in places like Afghanistan,” said Zuber, a fair amount of “survivability,” has to be built into their products.
While Canada’s military missions in Afghanistan and Libya came to an end last year, Valcourt stressed that the contract was part of a larger “Canada-first defence strategy (which) is about modernizing our Canadian armed forces. It calls for investment over 20 years at a pace at which we invest in this.” But he added that the investment “has to be in line with the fiscal situation,” at the time. “Canada is pulling its weight with regards to the recession. We are not immune to the world-wide situation.”
Bernard Valcourt: Political longevity at work
Bernard Valcourt brought years of political heritage with him to Carleton Place last week. He was first elected as part of Brian Mulroney’s blue wave which swept New Brunswick, and much of Canada, back on Sept. 4, 1984, for the riding of Madawaska-Victoria, making him one of the longest-serving MPs currently in the house.
“It’s nice to be introduced by such a young MP,” joked Valcourt during his visit to Carleton Place last week. “It reminds me of how young I was back in those days!”
The barrister and solicitor was shortly put to work in a series of parliament secretary roles (Science and Technology, National Revenue) from 1984 to 1986, and Minister of State roles (Small Business and Tourism, Indian Affairs and Northern Development) from 1986 to 1989.
From January to July, 1989, Valcourt was the minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, but resigned following pleading guilty to a drinking and driving offence. During that incident, he lost an eye.
Mulroney took another chance on Valcourt in 1990, bringing him back to cabinet as Fisheries and Oceans minister, and shuffling him in 1991 to Employment and Immigration, which he held until Mulroney’s departure from office.
Prime Minister Kim Campbell gave Valcourt plenty to do in her short-lived cabinet in 1993, where he juggled Employment, Immigration, Labour and National Health and Welfare on an acting basis.
In October 1993, in keeping with the national P.C. purge, Valcourt was turfed out as an MP, but while voters in northern New Brunswick may have been through with him for the time being, he was not through with politics.
In 1995, he was elected to the New Brunswick legislature as the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, and leader of the official opposition, but Valcourt was not able to gain traction against Frank McKenna’s Liberals. He stepped down as opposition leader in 1997, and retired from his Edmunston seat in 1999, the same year that Bernard Lord’s P.C.’s formed a government in Fredericton.
Following the May 2, 2011 federal election, he was returned to the house, representing the riding of Madawaska-Restigouche. Along with his associate defence portfolio, is the Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and La Francophonie.