Canadian industry has failed to come through with supplying ammunition and related material in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, warns National Defence’s top bureaucrat.
Instead, Canada has dipped into existing stockpiles to provide Ukraine with much needed ammunition or has dealt with U.S. and foreign firms to provide munitions. In some cases it has gone through Canadian-based firms, but those companies then acquired the ammunition from foreign sources.
“For a variety of reasons, Canadian munitions suppliers have been unable to provide the types or quantity of operational munitions required in response to the invasion of Ukraine,” according to the memorandum prepared in August 2022 by Deputy Minister Bill Matthews for then defence minister Anita Anand. The memo was obtained by this newspaper using the Access to Information law.
But Matthews’ view is being challenged by those in the Canadian defence industry. Industry officials point out that they have been ready to increase ammunition production and have been advocating for contracts from the Canadian government, but aren’t receiving them.
Christyn Cianfarani, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, said her organization has been urging the federal government for more than a year to sign firm, multi-year contracts for priority capabilities like munitions. But nothing has happened, she added. “You can’t take a press release or Twitter posts to the bank,” Cianfarani explained. “A contract is the only thing that counts for a defence company making significant, multi-year investments in labour, inputs, and facilities to increase production.”
Companies have submitted various proposals to spin up sustained production, she added.
In contrast to the Canadian situation, Cianfarani pointed to a November 2022 announcement by the U.S. military to award IMT Defence of Ingersoll, Ont., a contract worth more than $400 million to produce, package and supply metal parts assemblies for 155mm artillery projectiles.
Those artillery rounds are in scarce supply in Canada and the U.S. and other NATO nations as those armed forces have sent large amounts of such ammunition to Ukraine.
Other defence industry sources privately say that bureaucrats in National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada have bungled the situation by failing to push through contracts. They point to a Canadian government contract in February to IMT for 155mm artillery projectiles but added that deal was only for $4.3 million.
The Quebec-based General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems – Canada, which makes a wide variety of ammunition, including those for tanks, has received no federal government contracts for munitions to be supplied to Ukraine, National Defence also confirmed.
The department noted in a statement that it intends to increase orders for munitions from Canadian companies in the future. “We continue to work with government and industry partners to investigate supply-chain solutions,” added National Defence spokesperson Jessica Lamirande.
Matthews, in his memorandum to the defence minister, stated that the war in Ukraine has highlighted supply chain vulnerabilities that are affecting the Canadian Forces.
The deputy minister recommended holding a round table of industry representatives to see what can be done about meeting Canadian military ammunition needs in the future. That meeting was held Sept. 26, 2022.
But Matthews noted in his memorandum the need to keep the news media in the dark about the ongoing munitions issues. While recommending that the communications organizations of both National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada be informed about the meeting, he suggested non-disclosure agreements or “similar mechanisms” could be used with “protect sensitive information and discussions.”
In some cases, however, National Defence had little recourse but to acknowledge it was buying ammunition from the U.S. as the American government procurement system publishes such details. For instance, in 2022 the U.S. announced that Canada was purchasing 20,000 artillery rounds of artillery ammunition at a cost of $98 million.
In other cases, National Defence has declined to provide details on the sources of the ammunition purchases financed by Canadian taxpayers.
In April 2023, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canada would send 2.4 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine. But the actual source of the ammunition is considered secret.
The government would only state that the ammunition was being ordered from Colt Canada in Kitchener, Ont.
Eva Svobodová, spokesperson for Colt CZ Group, said the ammunition was “sourced” from Colt Canada. She did not provide further details.
David Pugliese is an award-winning journalist covering Canadian Forces and military issues in Canada. To support his work, subscribe: ottawacitizen.com/subscribe
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