Michelle Jamieson, co-owner of Grohmann Knives in Pictou, holds a knife that was supplied to the Canadian Armed Forces until the government decided to buy cheaper ones made in China.
Stabbed in the back
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PICTOU ó Itís bad enough that a company in the defence ministerís home riding of Central Nova has lost a contract to supply knives to Canadian Forces paratroopers.
But to add insult to injury, some people who now have the knock-off knives have been calling Grohmann Knives Ltd. in Pictou to complain about their quality, said company co-owner Michelle Jamieson.
"Itís poor workmanship, itís terrible, itís crappy," Ms. Jamieson quoted the callers as saying.
She said the callers are also concerned about whether the knives are safe. But neither Ms. Jamieson nor the companyís co-owner, Mike Babinec Jr., who is also her father, have seen the knock-offs.
"Weíve been told it looks very similar to our knife," she said.
Ms. Jamieson said Grohmann has put a disclaimer on its website in response to the complaints.
She said she has been told the knock-off has the word valour stamped on it and it is labelled Made in China.
The No. 3 model of the D.H. Russell belt knife, designed by Deane Russell and Rudolph Grohmann in the 1950s, was supplied to the Canadian Armed Forces from 1964 to 2006.
It was issued to paratroopers, who used it for cutting their parachute harnesses during dangerous landings in water or when they became entangled.
Two years ago, Ottawa opted to buy army-issue knives from Gear Up Motors, which offered to supply 2,400 knives at a cost of $40 each.
Stanley Pioro of Richmond, Ont., owns the company.
Any national bid on a contract worth about $100,000 or more must go to tender, and Mr. Pioro was able to offer a comparable product for a lower price, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
The Armed Forces has received no complaints about the Pioro knife, Mr. MacKay said.
"Surely someone isnít suggesting that I rig the procurement process in favour of a local contractor," the defence minister said, insisting that he would not do that.
Mr. MacKay said he has not seen the Pioro knife and did not know where it was made, but he owns a Grohmann-made Russell belt knife himself and frequently buys them as gifts.
What a fk'n joker.
The knife, made of German steel, retails for about $90, but Grohmann offered a significant discount for buying in bulk, Ms. Jamieson said.
The company supplied up to 6,000 knives a year to the Canadian Armed Forces over the last few decades. It continues to fill smaller orders for the Canadian Coast Guard and other military branches.
Mr. Babinec spoke with Mr. MacKay and Gen. Rick Hillier about the issue when they toured the Water Street factory in June. But Ms. Jamieson said company officials didnít receive a reply until Mr. MacKay contacted Mr. Babinec on Tuesday to describe the procurement process.
Meanwhile, his father, Mike Babinec Sr., again mentioned the problem during a factory tour earlier this week by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who is opposing Mr. MacKay for the Central Nova seat.
Ms. May said she was shocked that the government had ignored Grohmannís reputation for quality and reliability and awarded the contract based solely on cost.
"My next thought was what kind of other shoddy non-Canadian goods are being purchased for our soldiers in cost-cutting measures?" Ms. May said in a news release Tuesday.
She said there appears to be a bias against contract bids submitted from Atlantic Canada. Ms. May noted that a submarine retrofit contract also went to British Columbia.
Grohmann has not followed up on copyright or patent infringement issues, Ms. Jamieson said.
She said she is upset that someone could make cheaper knock-offs of the companyís knives and then sell them to one of the firmís major clients.
"It was designed by Canadians for Canadians," she said.
Ms. Jamieson said she would like to see steps taken to help Canadian manufacturers win contracts like the one her company lost.
Such measures would ensure that local people keep their jobs and that the government receives quality products, she said.
"We have a quality product," Ms. Jamieson said.
Mr. MacKay said he always supports local industry, but many Canadian products have components from China.
Grohmann was founded by Ms. Jamiesonís great-grandfather in 1961.
Rudolph Grohmann went to Pictou from a German area of Czechoslovakia in 1949 to work at a cutlery company.
When it folded, Mr. Grohmann started making knives in his garage, winning international awards in the ensuing years. The company employs about 25 people who make outdoor, kitchen and specialty knives.
So what do you think?
Did Peter McKay make the right decision in sending the contract out to China for what some who bought them so far claim have "poor workmanship, itís terrible, itís crappy" etc? to save a few bucks..... or should quality and reliability stand out in this matter?
Think of this situation as a soldier who has to rely on this knife in the time of emergencies..... would you rather the cheaper knock-off knife, or the quality blade that has been used for decades and proven over time to be reliable?