By TODD STONE
MLA, Kamloops-South Thompson
THE NDP’S REPLACEMENT of the Cowichan District Hospital on Vancouver Island made all the wrong headlines this past week, when the public learned the project is now $800 million over budget. A facility that had an original budget of $600 million is now going to cost more than $1.4 billion. That’s more than double the initial cost estimate.
While a hospital project on the Island might not mean much to the people of Kamloops, the NDP’s discriminatory Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) behind this massive cost escalation will definitely be of interest.
These agreements only allow select union contractors — i.e. the NDP-friendly ones — to build major infrastructure projects like bridges, highways and rapid transit lines and they result in cost overruns, longer construction timelines and reductions in scope.
We are indeed seeing this play out close to home, with regards to the four-laning of the Trans Canada Highway from Kamloops to Alberta. Thanks to CBAs, the latest section near the Village of Chase is not only costing an extra $61 million — representing a 31 per cent increase in the budget — but it’s missing nearly two kilometers of four-laning and a second full access interchange — plus it’s more than a year behind schedule.
And don’t get me started about the fact that the original Phase 3 of this project from Hoffman’s Bluff to Chase West has been scrubbed from the plan entirely.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring riding of Shuswap, the Salmon Arm West component of the project has also gone way over budget even though the scope was reduced. When this piece was announced in September 2016 it was fully funded, consisted of three phases totaling 6.1 kilometers, and the cost was pegged at $162.7 million.
Now the revised project is only 3.3 kilometres long, contains only two phases, has been plagued by delays, and the cost has ballooned to $184.7 million. In other words, the per-kilometre cost of the project has more than doubled — from $26.6 million per kilometre in 2016 to $55.9 million per kilometre in 2020.
Further east on the project route, the Illicillewaet and Kicking Horse Canyon highway expansions have seen cost overruns of 143 per cent and 33 per cent respectively — with these CBA projects costing taxpayers an additional $200 million combined for no good reason.
David Eby and the NDP love to make announcements but, as is far too common for this government whether talking about health care, public safety, affordability or infrastructure, the NDP’s outcomes and results for the people of B.C. are terrible.
Sadly, the NDP’s record on infrastructure can best be summed up with the slogan ‘Get Less for More Money’ — British Columbians deserve so much better.
Todd Stone was elected MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson in 2013, 2017, and again in 2020. He currently serves as the Official Opposition House Leader as well as the Critic for Jobs, Economic Recovery, Trade and Innovation.