Dexter says loan to Halifax Shipyard was ‘most lucrative investment’ N.S. has ever made

Former Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter said the province put a "full-court press" on to convince the federal government to award the national shipbuilding contract to the Halifax Shipyard and he says it was.

In an interview with CTV Atlantic on Monday evening, Dexter says $260-million forgivable loan made to the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard was a good investment.

"It is turning out to be the most lucrative investment that the province had ever made," Dexter said. "Just the return on that money in terms of its impact on the GDP."

The former premier could not confirm whether the loan had been forgiven or if the Irvings had delivered on the creation of thousands of jobs that were the target that needed to be met for the loan to be forgiven.

"Once you leave politics, you don't get to know," Dexter said.

Ten years ago Tuesday, the Irving Halifax Shipyard was chosen as lead contractor for the federal government's national shipbuilding strategy, winning a $25-billion contract to build arctic offshore patrol ships and a new generation of surface combatants for the Canadian Navy.

The federal contract promised thousands of jobs and 20 to 30 years worth of work.

"We said early on that this was the, you know, this is the industrial opportunity of a generation," Dexter said at the time.

On Monday, Dexter said the motivation to lobby Ottawa was based on a history of military contracts being awarded for political reasons and Nova Scotia thought that if it was based on merit, the Halifax Shipyard stood a very good chance of being the lead contractor.

"We were worried that there might be considerations outside of just who was going to be the best," Dexter said.

When he looks at the number of people employed there now, he says he's confident the right decision was made.

"I'm not sure exactly what the numbers are down at the yard these days, but I think it's about 1,200 people," Dexter said.

Dexter says Oct. 19, 2011 was one of his best days as premier.

"It was a great day," Dexter said. "My father worked in that shipyard and so I knew the importance of the that yard to many families."

You can watch the full interview here.