Links and stories you might have missed: Critical state of rail infrastructure, BC Hydro debt scandal and SNC Lavalin

“I’m just catching up with yesterday, by tomorrow I should be ready for today : )”

                    – unknown

To be honest, I totally relate this summer!! Busy, busy, busy and most writing is getting done pre-dawn or post- sunset and frankly, when it’s 30 degrees and humid – it just isn’t going to happen. :)

However, I have come across several items that are important, so let’s take a look at them this morning and I welcome you to share if you like, with friends and colleagues.
I was like many, horrified at the accident and aftermath of the Quebec train derailment that resulted in the loss of life, heritage and infrastructure in  Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

This accident of course, has resulted in the discussion of whether or not a similar scenario could occur in B.C., and what the impact of such a potential derailment could be. Considering many harmful and lethal agents are transported by rail, this is a valid question.

In fact, this has always been a concern of mine because I live in between two major rail lines, in particular when I was told by a rail man that the dangerous cargo was transported via rail prior to 6 am not far from my home.

This video is a must watch. I’m not a structural engineer or metal expert, but it would seem to me that shoring up a bridge with wood beams would be a sign it’s time to replace the damn structure. Again, as with many things, the human component is often a cause of failure. We know structures can rust and this bridge has areas that are completely rusted away, and areas where rust has created holes in the structure. We know infrastructure needs maintenance.  However, when that doesn’t happen, the results could potentially be disastrous.  This video raises some serious questions as to what kind of maintenance is being done to critical rail infrastructure, because it appears to show very little maintenance has been done on this bridge at all.

After the video started making the rounds ( 1343 views as of the time of this post ) CBC’s Dan Burritt took an engineer from UBC out to the site and had a look and the engineer was appalled. BNSF states that despite the holes and condition of the bridge, it is safe. However, there are plans to replace it soon as soon as the required permits are in place.http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/BC/ID/2396341982/

The question is now, how many other structures exist out there, in the same condition as this one? If you know of a rail bridge in similar condition, let me know and send me video or photos, with details on the location and owner of the rail line.

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Next up, let’s take a look at the looming disaster known as BC Hydro.. the BC Hydro debt scandal. And yes, a scandal it does indeed make.

Credit: Ken Paisley, 2013

Credit: Ken Paisley, 2013

Despite people like Erik Andersen, Rafe Mair, and Damien Gillis detailing it at length  for quite a long time –  sadly a large portion of British Columbians remain unaware of the looming crisis:

http://thecanadian.org/item/2178-$55-billion-private-power-racket-bc-hydro-debt-ipp-energy-electric-damien-gillis

Wow… and if that wasn’t enough to get you going, here is another reality check – a must watch also from Damien Gillis.

No kidding. And of course in the news recently was the fact that BC Hydro is not prepared for any natural disaster which could leave parts of the province without power for months. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/07/04/bc-hydro-rate-increase.html

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SNC-Lavalin, the firm that has been banned from bidding on Word Bank funding projects, has been given TT$2.2 million by the Trinidad and Tobago government to design the Penal hospital – and there are still questions about the Canadian governments involvement and influence in the process. http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2013-07-10/snc-lavalin-gets-22m-design-hospital-penal

“In an e-mail, Stapleton-Whyms said there were no ongoing negotiations between Udecott and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) over the contract. The $1 billion hospital is expected to be built at Clarke Road, Penal.

Minister of Housing Dr Roodal Moonilal said Government still reserved the right to reject the contract if the CCC failed to explain on what grounds SNC-Lavalin was chosen.

“As stated in the Framework Arrangement between our respective governments, CCC confirms that it has engaged SNC- Lavalin Constructors International Inc, one of the leading engineering and construction groups in the world, as its Canadian supplier to design, engineer, procure, construct and commission the hospital in the town of Penal.”

This story has been making news since June when it was announced that  Trinidad and Tobago government officials were investigating if the Canadian government had done the appropriate due diligence in selecting SNC Lavalin as the contracter to design and build the hospital . 

SNC-Lavalin was selected by the  Canadian Commercial Corporation, which is a crown corporation of the federal government, which  helps private business win international contracts. News reports allege the TT government had no choice or input into the selection of the contracter for the hospital project, which is being made possible in part by a loan from the Canadian government.

Both the Canadian Commercial Corporation and SNC- Lavalin disputed these claims to Globalnews recently ( my inquiries were not answered) :

“Kurt Ramlal, CEO of the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago, told the paper that Trinidad is not responsible for SNC-Lavalin’s involvement in the potential deal. He told the Guardian, “I think all questions that relate to the contract must be directed to the Canadian government because we had no control at all on the tendering or selection of this contract.”

Both CCC and SNC-Lavalin dispute these claims. They say no deal has been signed and if Trinidad does not want to do business with SNC-Lavalin it doesn’t have to sign the contract.”

Of course, what makes all of this very interesting to me, is this:  “

Arthur Porter, the Conservative-appointed former head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, is accused of accepting bribes in connection with the awarding of a $1.3-billion contract to SNC-Lavalin to build a hospital in Montreal.

According to an Interpol report, Porter was en route to Trinidad and Tobago when he was arrested in Panama along with his wife and charged with fraud.”

Talk about things that make you go ‘ Hmmm..’, add this one into the never ending allegations,investigations and connections between SNC Lavalin and government business across this country and many others.

But don’t worry BC, because our new Transportation Minister Todd Stone recently told Andrew MacLeod this in a recent article for the Tyee  :

“I don’t have any concerns about their work in British Columbia,they have a stellar record, frankly, on projects that we’ve partnered with them on: the Canada Line, the Sea to Sky Highway, the W. R. Bennett Bridge in Kelowna.”

~snip~

“Referring to the Evergreen Line contract, the government has “gone beyond the call of duty on this one from a procurement process perspective, to make sure all the protections we can possibly have are there,” Stone said. “Things like ensuring there are progress payments made.”

Stone also pointed out that SNC Lavalin has “a significant amount of private financing” to complete the project. “Those financial organizations would have very high standards for procurement as well. I’m confident those protections are there.”

The government would “try to apply the highest level of scrutiny on any project regardless of the proponent, and I think we’re doing that in this case with SNC,” he said”

This is where I differ from the BC Liberal method and standard for procurement.

In many cases across the spectrum, including Quebec, it is exactly the procurement process and private financing that has come under scrutiny.

Claire Trevena, the NDP’s new transportation critic, had this to say about SNC Lavalin in the same Tyee article linked to above:

“This is one of the differences between us and the Liberals,” she said. Along with price, the government needs to look at how the company will work with the people of the province, what it’s offering, how well it will do the job, and its record on worker safety.

While she said SNC Lavalin’s international record should raise some red flags, she concluded, “You can’t say because of allegations that have been made you won’t do any business with them.”

 

 

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And last but not least, the premier finally won a seat as an MLA so she can enter the legislature legitimately and not have to pass notes from the visitors bench. http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2013/06/27/NoteNoted/

On the NDP side, they’ve learned that running the same candidate that lost the first time, results in a similar loss the second time.

But there is at least one NDP member who is speaking truth and acknowledging a harsh reality this morning, former Delta MLA Guy Gentner:

“I’m no longer MLA, and I can say things maybe I couldn’t or was reluctant to speak about before,” the former Delta North representative told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

“Things” like the party has become “unethical”.

As the NDP undertakes a review of the debacle, he wants the party “to take a very close look at itself”. “The problem is the party itself,” Gentner said. “There’s something wrong at the core.”

Putting it more bluntly, the ex-MLA declared: “The party lacks integrity.”

It’s a phenomenal read, and quite telling that Adrian Dix would not respond to Gentner’s assertions, instead sending Mable Elmore to respond to the story.

Guy has it bang on, and on that note, I leave you with his last lines:

“Gentner asserted that unless the party cleans itself up, “it is going to run in the same dirt the Liberals are running in today.”

Saying that he remains a committed New Democrat, he posed this challenge to the faithful: “Let’s get some integrity going in the party.”

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9 Responses to Links and stories you might have missed: Critical state of rail infrastructure, BC Hydro debt scandal and SNC Lavalin

  1. G. Barry Stewart says:

    TMI, Laila!

    I watched the rail bridge video, then I was full. That was a good video — but just needed a clip of a train crossing, with a remote camera perched underneath.

    The rail industry will be under the microscope now… but I suspect some of the cost-cutting is from pressures brought by the trucking industry, which is largely deregulated now. There HAVE to be standards kept in both industries. We can’t do a WalMart “Rollback” until the wheels are falling off trains and trucks, endangering us all.

    • Laila says:

      I know, would be nice to see what happens under there when those cars go over… makes me shudder thinking about it actually. If those Chlorine cars ever went over or derailed, depending on the wind, it could have horrific results.

      Sorry for TMI…but it was better for me to stick it in one big post rather than three little ones..lol. :)

      • Laila says:

        Also interesting was this article: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/07/02/snc-lavalin-quebec-lobbying/

        Rather ironic that SNC Lavalin is objecting to Quebecs new anti-corruption laws..lol.

        “SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. is pressing the Quebec government to maintain a base of engineering expertise in the province amid concerns that its anti-corruption law goes too far.

        Canada’s largest engineering firm, which is headquartered in Montreal, formally listed itself and 10 senior executives as lobbyists with the Quebec government in a registration dated June 26.

        The company’s aim, according to the wording of the listing, is to make Quebec and various public organisations “aware of the importance of allowing companies like SNC-Lavalin to participate in big, developmental projects in Quebec in order to promote the maintainenace of an expertise in engineering-construction” based in the province.

        No fewer than 14 Quebec government bodies and related corporations are listed as being the subject of SNC’s lobbying efforts, including the premier’s office, power producer Hydro-Québec, and pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.”

  2. Bill says:

    Interesting read on SNC.So the feds loaned TT money to help build a hospital and SNC was who they chose to design and build,right?I checked that link to CCC and found this: ‘CCC provides governments of other nations with the benefits of government-to-government contracting, including the time and cost savings of a simplified procurement’

    Simplified procurement?For a crown corporation whose purpose is to assist Cdn corps in foreign business opps,I’d like to know how simplified the process is. Has it been reduced to call saying hey you want a contract?

  3. beachboxer says:

    Very good compilation Laila! Like Barry I couldn’t absorb it all in one bite. (more coffee pls.) I’ve seen bits and pieces of these topics- but to have ALL this in one spot here is PRICELESS. I did a RT, but no room for your name – it’s in the post tho. Thanks always for your enlightenment – EVERYONE needs to see this!!

  4. G. Barry Stewart says:

    Okay, back for my next meal. Damian Gillis… what a marvellous speaker and presenter! Not that the hall was chock full — but I hope that every one of those people in attendance went out and voted against Christy. They should have had no doubt what a cock-and-bull organization the BC Liberals are.

    The success of the “Fight HST” movement gives me faith that if this government should try a sell-off of BC Hydro, people of all political stripes would rise up against them.

    But first, they have to be educated… and before you can educate, you have to get their attention.

    Two young men in suits came to my door last Friday evening. I guessed right off that they were trying to sell me some religious doctrine and I was correct. I’ve got my religion and didn’t want to give them the time of day… and politely told them that.

    They couldn’t educate me because I wouldn’t pay any attention to them.

    To a great extent, it’s the same with Rafe Mair and Damian Gillis: not many BCers want to give them the time of day. That may soon change, if our Hydro rates shoot up. People will start to pay attention.

    Thanks for bringing this story to us, Laila. It takes many drips to fill the bucket. I just hope it doesn’t rust out before the majority of the bucket is full!

  5. G. Barry Stewart says:

    “and frankly, when it’s 30 degrees and humid – it just isn’t going to happen.”

    Laila,
    My wife and I discovered the joys of a heat pump about 6 years ago. They absorb energy even from cool outside air in the winter (though Hydro rates may soon eat into the savings) — but they also act as air conditioners in the summer. I dial ours in at 25º in the summer and ceiling fans do the rest. Without the heat pump, our house could easily hit 35º indoors… and who can sleep in that?

    I recommend them, especially for Fraser Valley folk.

  6. Curt says:

    http://www.cloverdalereporter.com/news/270075251.html

    This area has been vacant and an eyesore for so long. They should have just left it, at least there was parking available. Now it’s just a mess. They put the Legion out with promises, but I guess they didn’t say how long they’re be waiting. I see Watts and Co. and her Surrey Development Corporation have SNC Lavalin involved. That’s scary. A bit off topic, but imo, McCalllum will just carry on as Dianne did when she took over, but at a much faster pace. Rasode? Well, she was a Surrey First until recently. Think Surrey citizens, before you vote, think. What has this current council and their “Development corporation” cost us in money and in land, ALR sell offs?

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