National Post (National Edition)
Trade complaint stalls new sidearms for military
Glock argues unfair edge for rival gunmakers
The plan to replace the Canadian military's Second World War-era pistols is on hold for now after a firm representing one of the gun manufacturers complained the competition was designed to favour its competitors.
Federal government officials were to receive bids on Aug. 3 for new pistols to replace the army's Browning Hi-Power handguns. The plan was to award a contract for a new gun by December and start delivering the first weapons to troops in the summer of 2022.
But that process has come to a halt after Rampart International of Ottawa, the firm that represents handgun manufacturer Glock in the Canadian market, filed a complaint with the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
Rampart alleges the government-run competition favours Glock's rivals, Beretta and Sig Sauer.
As a result, the CITT has requested the federal government put any contract award on hold.
Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesman Jeremy Link said the department “has full confidence in the rigour, fairness and outcomes of its competitive procurement processes.”
“PSPC and DND will respond to the CITT process in accordance with normal practice,” he noted. “The impact is still under assessment.”
PSPC has told those firms who want to bid on the pistol replacement project that they can't submit their proposals now until at least Oct. 1. That will give the government time to figure out how to respond to the CITT complaint.
The Canadian military has outlined what it needs in a new gun. But Rampart is arguing that some of those requirements aren't necessary.
The complaint alleged the Canadian Forces solicitation required “certain design types which serve no legitimate operational requirement and favour certain bidders.”
The pistol program is considered a priority by the Canadian Army as the number of working Browning Hi-Power handguns has significantly dwindled because of a lack of spare parts.
The new firearms will be modular, meaning they can be reconfigured for various roles. Other requirements include various safety features.
The acquisition project had been stalled for years after small arms firms rejected in 2011 the federal government requirement that the new guns be built at Colt Canada in Kitchener, Ont. In addition, the companies balked at the stipulation they had to turn over their proprietary firearms information to Colt, a firm that some saw as a competitor.
But those requirements were eventually set aside and the military focused on developing new criteria with the operational needs of soldiers as its top priority.
The plan was to buy a minimum of 8,000 pistols with options for up to 16,500 for the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy.
“The potential value of a contract could be up to $18 million, if options are exercised,” National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said earlier this year. “However, the actual value will only be known at contract award.”
In one of its documents to the CITT, Rampart noted that Glock pistols have been purchased by defence forces in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, the Netherlands and Australia among other nations.
Glock pistols are also widely used by police forces in North America.
But Glock lost out to Sig Sauer in January 2017 for a top U.S. military pistol contract. Sig Sauer is now providing the U.S. with some 420,000 handguns based on its Sig P320 pistol.
In its complaint, Rampart cited a CBC report in February about a JTF2 member, using a Sig 320, who received a flesh wound during an accident at an Ottawa shooting range.
But the Canadian Forces has since confirmed there was nothing wrong with the Sig P320 pistol.
The accident appears to have been the result of an accidental discharge caused by the JTF2 member, defence sources say.