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IN THE LEDGE – ‘Tunnel replacement could have been built for millions less’

MLA Todd Stone during Question Period on Wednesday.

An exchange in the B.C. Legislature on Wednesday, Sept. 13 between Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena on the Massey Tunnel replacement project.

T. Stone: This week we have raised concerns about the no-investment, no-jobs message that government is sending through cancelled projects and numerous chaotic reviews.

Highway 99 is a key corridor for provincial and national economic development. It’s a route that moves about $25 billion a year. By cancelling the George Massey Tunnel replacement project, the NDP government is turning its back on 80,000 commuters who are stuck in British Columbia’s worst traffic bottleneck. They’re putting B.C.’s economy at risk, and they are threatening 9,000 jobs.

My question to the Minister of Transportation relates to the cost of this project. Now that she has cancelled the George Massey procurement process, will the minister today inform British Columbians as to the dollar value of the lowest price proposal that the government received?

Hon. C. Trevena: I’d like to thank the member for his first question to me in opposition. And I have to say that I’m pretty incredulous that this member, of all people, would be asking questions about this project. It was under his government that it went ahead as basically a pet political project of the former Premier, Christy Clark. And I would also expect that the member, as a former minister, would know that I cannot divulge information on the bid process.

T. Stone: Being a former minister, I certainly know that you can disclose information. In this particular case, the Minister of Transportation should disclose this information.

I am very proud, as is every member on this side of the House, that we supported a project that was going to create 9,000 direct jobs in British Columbia. This was a project that was going to give some relief to 80,000 commuters stuck in British Columbia’s worst traffic bottleneck, the largest parking lot in the province.

It’s very disappointing that the minister hasn’t been more forthcoming about the excellent news that she’s well aware of, that the taxpayers of this province and the commuters of British Columbia have a right to know. In fact, the lowest proponent price received was significantly lower than the original project estimate. She knows this. I’ll be more specific.

Mr. Speaker: Member, you have a question?

T. Stone: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Based on the lowest price proposal received, the project could have been completed for $900 million less than anticipated.

Again, to the Minister of Transportation: will the minister confirm that based on the proposals received, the bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel could have been built for $2.6 billion, a full $900 million less than originally estimated, if only the government had have gone ahead with the procurement process?

Hon. C. Trevena: We are not going to be taking any lessons on math, on bridges, from that member.… These were the people that doubled the cost of Port Mann Bridge to $3.6 billion.

The project that the member is talking about was a pet project of the former Premier.

Interjections.

Hon. C. Trevena: While they may heckle all they want, it’s our duty to act responsibly on behalf of the people of British Columbia, make sure that we get the right project and that we get the buy-in from everyone who is concerned and living in that region.

Mr. Speaker: Member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a second supplemental.

T. Stone: Let’s go over some NDP math here. The last time I checked, being able to build a bridge that was going to be good for 80,000 commuters a day, save them 30 minutes a day, create 9,000 direct jobs, help them move $25 billion worth of goods every year and doing it for $2.6 billion versus the project estimate of $3.5 billion is a pretty good deal for the taxpayers of British Columbia.

Now, the publicized costs associated with the government’s decision to cancel the project include $66 million for advanced construction work, $25 million for B.C. Hydro work and millions of dollars in cancellation costs to the proponents who were in good faith in the procurement process.

In addition, I understand that the minister has been advised that her decision would result in significant increased costs related to potentially doing the project at a later date, yet she hasn’t disclosed these additional costs to British Columbians. These additional costs of hundreds of millions of dollars relate to missing the current window of existing construction capacity, missing seasonal environmental windows, inflation and increasing interest rates.

To the minister, will she today disclose the total cost to taxpayers for her decision to cancel the George Massey project, and why hasn’t she been forthright with British Columbians about these costs?

Hon. C. Trevena: The member didn’t actually read any of the information that came out after the press conference which announced that this is being deferred in which all the costs were broken down — the investment in the future project. We’re talking about a project that had absolutely no buy-in from anyone in the region. There was one if….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members, we will hear the minister’s response.

Hon. C. Trevena: If the members opposite respect fellow elected officials…. There was one mayor who accepted this. We’re going out to talk to the mayors, who we need, to ensure that it matches their vision, whatever we do.

But I’ve got to say that we have the former minister, now the member for Kamloops–South Thompson, railing on about how terrible it is, our decision. We’ve got to remember that in their last throne speech, in June, the then Premier actually said that she was pulling back from the project. I’d like to quote what the Province newspaper said.

The Province newspaper said at the time: “The Liberals are even entertaining second thoughts on Clark’s precious Massey Tunnel replacement bridge.”

The scale of the investment demands that we get it right, that we get the public buy-in and that we actually are doing a good investment for the people of British Columbia.

Source: BC Hansard, draft.

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About Mel Rothenburger (4931 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on IN THE LEDGE – ‘Tunnel replacement could have been built for millions less’

  1. Anyone willing to do a little research will stumble upon the results of a Freedom of Information Act request that received a whole pile of government emails relating to the depth and height of LNG tankers. The existing tunnel is too shallow to allow the really big ships to cross and head down the river when full. The river would need to be dredged (a concern in itself) and would need to go deeper than the existing tunnel. Clunk!! But removing it and replacing with a bridge – that coincidentally is also just high enough to allow those LNG tankers to pass under – would support the LNG boondoggle planned for upstream.

    The hypocrisy of our MLA’s remarks are, frankly, embarrassing. The bridge project was a two-fer for Christy… a bridge to ‘solve’ traffic issues (actually, just moving them further north, without the support of local governments) and a way to allow her beloved LNG dynasty to expand. Todd can bleat about cost savings all he wants – the truth is in the documents that have been coming to light. It doesn’t matter how cheap something is… if we don’t need it, it’s not worth buying.

    I wonder if any of those involved in the correspondence thought to consider how much higher sea level would be if all that LNG was burned… perhaps it could have solved the depth problem all by itself, given enough time, and allowed a cheaper second tunnel to be built instead??

    But wait… LNG is green, right???

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