Ships Start Here was without a doubt the most unifying and inspiring campaign that Nova Scotia has ever seen. Even the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, an organization that for 260 years has pursued the provincial government with the message of not wasting money, has to agree that this was money well spent.
The Chamber was part of the Ships Start Here Partnership, a community based effort that was the strategic backbone of the whole project since day one. The Ships Start Here Partnership, was created to help bring the community together in support, confident in Halifax’s ability to secure this bid, confident that Nova Scotia had the right skilled people, technology and ongoing investment in infrastructure, and best practices to provide Canada the best value for money and world-class ships that would make Canada proud.
The appropriately aggressive and media-based Ships Start Here marketing campaign was an urgent reaction to two things: the perceived need to demonstrate the widespread community support for the bid on a national level; and the stepped up effort by our competition in BC to prove their superior community engagement. It was not a pre-planned part of the bid or even the Ships Start Here partnership efforts.
The ongoing debate seems to be that government reacted too quickly, seemingly without following proper protocols or procedures. If a business was faced with the same situation, where a competitor entered the market with a high profile advertising campaign during a sensitive time in the sales process, the first and proper response is to hit back and hit back hard. This is exactly what the province did.
I would further say that in this circumstance, had the private sector CEO insisted on doing an RFP and running the proponents through a government level evaluation process, the company would soon be out of business and the CEO out of a job.
The Chamber feels it is easy to make headlines by taking information garnered through aFreedom of Information request out of context when you don’t look at the full story and the big picture.
The key fact in this case is that Ships Start Here needed to respond to our competitor’s strategy and that there was no time to waste. We commend the Province for taking a calculated risk – one that if not taken, could have, with the information that was available at the time, resulted in the loss of a contract that had the potential to change the future of this province.