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OTTAWA — Bureaucratic gridlock within Global Affairs Canada is threatening to put one B.C.-based optics company out of business.
While the department’s delays in processing export permits are nothing new to Current Scientific Corp. president Greg Menzies, the problem has reached a critical mass, he says.
Menzies said a contract to provide optical systems to the Indian navy has been waiting five months for approval for export.
I never dreamed that I would have this many challenges with this export permit
“We’ve been working a very long time to open business in India,” Menzies told the National Post.
“I never dreamed that I would have this many challenges with this export permit.”
Menzies and his company face the loss of a contract worth $5 million, if the order’s first delivery doesn’t ship by Thursday.
“This is going to be mean layoffs,” he said.
“‘I’m pretty loyal to my staff and we’ll find a way, but I’m going to be out about a million dollars if this thing doesn’t go through.”
Current Scientific develops and manufactures both land-based and marine optical and camera systems for industry, fisheries, leisure, government and military.
The order awaiting government export approval is a marine-based camera system destined for 20 patrol boats operated by India’s navy.
“In the 20 years I’ve been doing this, we’ve only ever been refused one export permit,” Menzies said.
“There’s been multiple cases where they don’t approve us in time, and then we lose this or that half-million dollar contract — I’m just getting tired of that.”
He said other permits applied for after the Indian navy order were processed and received without issue.
Attempts by Menzies and his team to get to the bottom of the delay have so far gone nowhere.
“I’ve left no less than 30 messages, and they won’t even return my calls,” he said.
“I’ve tried to reach out to our MP (Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam MP Ron McKinnon) and he says ‘Well, you know, it’s the civil service and we don’t have any influence.’ ”
While Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Jason Kung declined to comment on specific cases, he said the agency assess around 5,000 export permit applications annually, which are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
“The Government of Canada is committed to a rigorous arms export system, and respect for human rights is enshrined in our export controls system,” he said.
“Canada has one of the strongest export controls systems in the world in order to ensure that exports of controlled goods and technology, including military items, are conducted lawfully and in a manner consistent with Canada’s foreign and defence policies and international obligations.”
With the Trudeau Liberals spending the previous year talking up increased trade partnerships with pacific nations, Menzies is at a loss to explain why Ottawa is making life difficult for Canadian business — or why Canada is seemingly taking issue with the sale of cameras to India’s military.
We have a firm contract and a deal for trade — we’re allies with India, this shouldn’t be an issue
“The Indian-Canadian community has got to be asking, what’s wrong with the Indian navy?” he asked.
“We have a firm contract and a deal for trade — we’re allies with India, this shouldn’t be an issue.”
Last year’s headlines were dominated by a number of conspicuous backlogs in government services, including passports, visa processing, immigration and professional certifications.
Fully aware of the situation, Current’s employees are planning to picket McKinnon’s office if the matter doesn’t get resolved — and Menzies said ongoing government incompetence is prompting some unpleasant conversations in the boardroom.
“To be frank, I’m going to move my business out of Canada if this keeps happening,” he said.
“I’ve got many countries that have been wanting me to relocate to their location.”
As the company has far more international sales than domestic, moving out of Canada would make the most business sense — but such a decision wouldn’t be easy.
“I’m Canadian, I love Canada. My staff are Canadian, and we hire people from all over the world.
“We’re growing, but it’s going to have serious effect if I lose this $5 million in business over the next 12 months.”
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