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Tribunal tells federal government to restart military pistol purchase; favouritism alleged

Public Services and Procurement Canada and National Defence are waiting for the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to release its reasons for the decision.

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The federal government has been told to restart its efforts to buy a new pistol for the Canadian military after its latest venture was deemed to favour certain bidders.

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Canada has been trying to buy a new handgun for the army since at least 2011, but has continually run into problems.

Federal government officials originally went to companies in the summer to request bids 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 to start delivering weapons to troops in the summer of 2022.

But that process came to a halt after Ottawa’s Rampart International, the firm that represents handgun manufacturer Glock in the Canadian market, filed a complaint with the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. Rampart alleged the government-run competition favoured Glock’s rivals, Beretta and Sig Sauer.

On Nov. 10, the CITT determined the complaint was valid in part. While it has yet to release its full ruling, the CITT recommended Public Services and Procurement Canada cancel the competition and begin a new one, changing some wording in its requirements.

PSPC spokeswoman Stéfanie Hamel said both the department and National Defence were waiting for the CITT to release its reasons for the decision. “Once PSPC and DND have received the statement of reasons, they will be able to determine next steps,” she added.

The Canadian military has outlined what it needs in a new gun, but Rampart argues that some of those requirements aren’t necessary. Its complaint alleged the Canadian Forces solicitation required “certain design types which serve no legitimate operational requirement and favour certain bidders.”

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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 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 a stipulation that they had to turn over proprietary firearms information to Colt, a firm 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 the 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 all options are exercised, according to the DND.

In one of its documents to the CITT, Rampart noted Glock pistols had 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 420,000 handguns based on its Sig P320 pistol.

In its complaint, Rampart cited a CBC report in February about a Canadian special forces member, using a Sig 320, who received a flesh wound during an accident at a shooting range. But the Canadian military 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 special forces member, defence sources said.

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