Chris MacLean's picture
Liberals poised to shut down defence publications
Posted on Oct 27, 2016 |  19 comments

According to a late-breaking report by Murray Brewster of CBC News, the Government of Canada intends to make every effort to single-handedly put an end to defence publications in Canada.

Defence publications in Canada provide a service to Canada and to the industry and to the military and to the government itself by providing a dedicated stream of informed comment, analysis and education on topics that are of relevance to the defence community writ large.

As everyone expects this to be a free service, we depend almost exclusively on advertising to cover the high costs of writers, production and distribution, and have no sources other than the defence industry itself... an yet, according to the CSC draft RFP reported on last night by CBC News, the Government of Canada apparently sees fit to kill our business by requiring that any companies interested in bidding, or any of their subcontractors, stop all advertising – or the bid will be instantly deemed non-compliant.

According to the CBC News report by Murray Brewster:

"Neither the bidders, nor any of their respective subcontractors, employees or representatives shall make any public comment, respond to questions in a public forum or carry out any activities to either criticize another bidder or any bid — or publicly advertise their qualifications,"


If this is allowed to stand, and permeate to every large contract, we have just learned that our business will close immediately.


In a follow-up email response to FrontLine on November 9th, Lisa Campbell, ADM, Defence and Marine Procurement Branch, wrote:

As you may be aware, Public Services and Procurement Canada issued a clarification notice on October 27, 2016, which stated:

"The intent of the clause is simply to encourage bidders to respect and preserve the integrity of the solicitation process and focus on the content of their proposals. Companies are free to promote their products and services, but the RFP asks that they not do so in a way that would discredit the procurement process or other bidders."

Irving Shipbuilding Inc. has since advised all of the prospective bidders that the request for proposal has been amended. The amended clause now states that:

"A bidder shall not, and shall ensure that its subcontractors, employees and representatives do not issue or disseminate any media release, public announcement or public disclosure (whether for publication in the press, on the radio, television, internet or any other medium) with respect to the outcome of the RFP process, including any determination of the Preferred Bidder or Selected Bidder, without the prior written consent of ISI and in any event not prior to the official announcement by Canada."

The revised amendment restricts the advertisement of participation, or another's participation, within a governmental procurement process. With regard to advertising for the purpose of promoting and selling goods and services, your publication may continue to do so. We appreciate your interest in this matter.

I've been contemplating this response for two weeks now, and I can't decide if this is better or worse, however, I am still convinced the entire sentence needs to be eliminated in order for free speech to be protected in Canada. What do you think?

— Chris MacLean, the editor and publisher of FrontLine Defence and FrontLine Safety and Security magazines, is interested in hearing your thoughts on this matter. Call or email her directly 1-613-747-1138 or


Good Lord! They must be getting paranoid about this. This will lead to places I
honestly think they will come to regret this as public debate on important public
spending is stifled. Where is the lad leading us?

Another defence procurement disaster in the making. The requirement to report every nut and bolt, instead of using time-tested estimation techniques, is beyond idiotic. The level of detail in general results in an extremely expensive bid process, the expense of which must be recovered in the product price, thus raising the cost to the taxpayer. It may indeed have been designed to suppress competition, which is contrary to the stated aim of the procurement process. I also have grave concerns about the potential for other terms and conditions, including IP terms, that may preclude bids, make it impossible to bid compliant, or at the least so raises the risk profile of the project that the bidders must significantly raise their prices. This indeed is what happened to the JSS procurement a few years ago. Of course, the extremely onerous publicity prohibition is another problem for industry, not to mention unintended victims such as FrontLine.

We should except this will get challenged in court. The question may become who leads the cause. It appears to me to be a violation of rights. if it was for the last phase — or publicly advertise their qualifications. I applaud government services in their desire to get the procurement concerns under control but this seems a bit draconian.
I wonder how the suppliers and value added support vendors view this. Chris - I think this should be approached in a larger group of vested interest.

Thank you for bringing up the supply chain. As you may know, it will almost certainly be a requirement to "flow down" the requirements to suppliers. I have direct experience of how difficult that is when (given the number of ships), many suppliers will be bidding (to them) very small quantities, and being asked to give away their IP as well. While all needed supplies will get obtained in the end, some suppliers will refuse to bid under these terms, and others will raise prices and cause the prime inordinate effort in negotiation. In the end, the prime will have no choice in some cases but to accept products that are not the optimal, but from subs that will comply with the terms. These problems also have follow-on impacts on the maintenance contract.

Besides the small problem of taking away democratic rights from publications, writers and companies, such a proposal is clearly directed at blocking the shaping of support FOR Canadian defence. And it is difficult to see why defense is singled out -- with regard to all other government contracts then companies bidding for the provisions of goods and services should logically have their democratic rights taken away. This is the action of a government that is afraid of public debate, public scrutiny and public support for any other policies than those decided in secret by the government. If Putin were Canadian I am sure he would pleased.

Such a law raises fundamental questions of international relations and law as well. Given that virtually every defense provider in Canada is international, does this mean that contractors can not comment or advertise products which MIGHT be sold in Canada in publications outside of Canada? The intent is clearly to turn industry into a department of government in Canada rather than encouraging robust debate and competition to deliver the right products to the Canadian forces. Given how central coalition military relationships are to Canada, it is difficult to see how such a narcissistic political protectionist policy can be in the interest of democracy, security or defense in Canada.

This consideration is ill thought out, a first step away from a free democracy. All should oppose this now, and continuously, as it makes no sense to anyone other than some paranoid politician.

The mandate of PSPC is to ensure the integrity of the procurement process. Bidders need to be assured that the procurement process will be open, fair and transparent with no advantage provided to one bidder over another. To this end, political interference must be avoided and officials must treat all bidders alike. However, allowing bidders to publicly advertise and promote their products and solutions is not only a hallmark of a thriving democracy but in no way does it undermine the integrity of the process. There is no justification to rule bidders who advertise non-compliant

At a time when the People need to feel closer to defense and security matters and understand them without feeling it is public propaganda, at a time when the link between our armed forces and the citizens needs to be re-established and strengthened, these kinds of measures keep feeding the death of independent defense journalism. When the job of reporter increasingly becomes the re-publishing of pre-written official information, democracy becomes at stake... Hell is paved with good intentions...

This policy makes no sense at all. I assume that magazines, companies and organizations dealing with health, welfare, business, governance, infrastructure and transportation will soon also be subjected to such senseless limitations. If not, why only defence? Another "Decade of Darkness" for defence? Did we learn nothing from the Chrétien Collenette period? – MGen (ret'd) Clive Addy

"Frigate replacement program kicks Canada in the teeth" and so much for free press!

Public Services and Procurement Canada has posted a clarification on this matter. Please visit our site for more information:

Although this appears to be this specific contract, the concept of forbidding the public explanation and promotion of defence technologies is bizarre. Increased public awareness is generally a good thing in policy development and so unless there is a specific security consideration involved here that is unexplained, the Government would be well advised to reconsider this issue and the language chosen. I thought 'sunny ways' was supposed to bring more openness and transparency to government rather than more executive branch control.

I'm not sure that this clarification issued by PSPC is helpful. To whit, PSPC now states "that industry is free to communicate as it sees fit.". The clarification goes on to state " that the intent of the clause is simply to encourage bidders to respect and preserve the integrity of the solicitation process and focus on the content of their proposals" and "... the RFP asks that they(promote their products) not do so in a way that would discredit the procurement process or other bidders." What are the criteria for determining if an advertisement does so in a discrediting manner? Do we have any examples of this type of behaviour on the part of defence companies? No self respecting defence contractor nor the publications in which they would advertise would ever consider including derogatory material in their ads as that would be self defeating. Let the market decide, not some faceless bureaucrat who has no idea how companies actually work. This clause should be eliminated in its entirety.

The government has NO BUSINESS dictating to anyone what they can or cannot publish. It's called free speech and democracy. First, defence's the thin edge of the wedge. The bureaucrats should stick to their knitting and sort out the majorly screwed up defence procurement system in Canada that has become a global laughing stock. The problem is not defence magazine's covering procurement issues. This reminds me of the old tried, tested and true saying, YOU CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR STUPID.

I completely agree. I too see this as the thin edge of the wedge, a way of controlling what is said and written about government and in particular its defence department. Which is bad enough. Just as significant is if the drafters of the document didn't anticipate this (perhaps) collateral damage.

Oh Canada----Physician heal thyself and recognize the hypocrisy imbedded in your proposed law--

Are your elected representative so disdainful of the intelligence of their citizens that 2nd order (advertising) influence on any open discussion about your collective security requirements is horrifying and must be stopped?

What happens when a Canadian Government Document "Managing Climate Risks-Highlights for Business Leaders" was totally influenced by the fraudulent analysis, by those truly hiding behind direct paymasters, university grants devoid of intellectual rigor, in a global fraud verified by the release of the East Anglea University data leaks called "climategate," As an aside-the intellectual courage of two Canadians rang so true-Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick in destroying the infamous "Hockey Stick" analysis-I did my graduate work at Cornell and have seen real Hockey Sticks-Ha!

So defense advertising is awful while fraudulent science is embraced at the highest level of Canadian Government--Am I allowed to say busha on all this folderol-I understand one can not be to careful with the Canadian word police.

I have never heard of anything so outlandish. It appears our flaky PM is afraid of free speech

Very unexpected and shocking news. Do you think this may have been an oversight by the Government in their packaging of this latest shipbuilding procurement process? If so, I wonder if there are people in well positioned places to inform Cabinet of the ramifications of a blanket ban on advertising for those wishing to complete in the CSC bid. Or do you think this is actually a political strategy designed in part to stifle debate about Liberal procurement processes and their defence policy writ large? Hopefully, more clarifications will come forward soon.