The ‘real’ thing about the Port Mann Bridge.

“The thing about the Port Mann Bridge is people start using it–and they love it, because it saves so much of their time that they would otherwise be driving and they can spend with their family for example or get out and coach soccer. So they have some really good strategies I think to try and improve those numbers, but after speaking with them I’m confident they’re gonna find a way to manage through this.”

The Transportation Investment Corporation which operates the bridge for government has had to borrow money to fill the gap in revenue left by the shortfall.

The number of vehicles crossing the Port Mann declined every single month last year except for December, which saw a 3% increase. ~


Here’s the real thing about the Port Mann Bridge, Premier Clark.

It’s true that people love saving time on their commute so they can spend more time with their family, or get out with their friends….or get to their second,and sometimes third job.

You see Premier Clark, because the Vancouver area is too expensive for many average families and young couples starting out, Surrey,Langley and the Fraser Valley have provided somewhat affordable housing for all of us. We also have a very large population of  lower-income earners and pensioners, both groups of people who are often barely making ends meet.

Those who used the old crossing were excited to hear an end to the gridlock down Highway 1 was in sight, but in the years since the bridge began construction, a lot more has changed in this province than just premiers.

Life’s become more expensive for just about everyone from college kids to seniors. 

The federal government is taking more money off paycheques in the form of higher EI and CPP deductions. ICBC is going up, BC hydro rates are going up, MSP premiums have gone up again.

Tuition rates have risen,hitting college students and parents in the pocket-book hard.

BC ferries has gone up over the years, for those who can still afford a vacation. Even with the fuel surcharge gone for now, it’s a budget breaking trip for many.

Food prices have skyrocketed, something we have discussed at length here on this blog. When people are worried about the soon to expire discount disappearing you know things are worse than it seems at first glance.

In Surrey, property taxes were just hiked and that didn’t just impact property owners, but renters as well as landlords happily passed part of that burden on to tenants.

Even the ability to go camping-historically a low-cost alternative vacation for families that was affordable with a tent tossed in the back and some gear – is increasingly out of reach as your government announced today a fee increase for usage.

It all adds up Premier Clark. And when it does, there isn’t much left over- certainly not enough in many cases to cover a months worth of tolls if you use the bridge twice a day, five days a week to get to and from work or school. It actually does make a very big difference to many people’s budgets.

So here’s the thing about the Port Mann bridge Premier Clark, that gets to the heart of the matter.

It could have turned out like a Field of Dreams, where if you build it, they will come.

But after being nickeled and dimed at every opportunity, drivers are sending a very clear message to your government about the Port Mann Bridge. The question is, are you listening?








*please note it states ‘going to’ – not ‘gonna’.

Kiewit-General “committed willful and serious safety violations” in Washington state accident, fined $150,000

I noticed some interesting and heavy activity yesterday on my blog, from a US source using Level 3 Communications out of Maryland, U.S. – a company that interestingly enough, was spun off from Kiewit Diversified Group, a subsidiary of Peter Kiewit and Sons. The interest was very specifically focused on the posts I’ve written that involve or feature Kiewits work in BC, and most recently on the issues with the retaining walls along the Sea to Sky Highway. 

This prompted a bit of digging around since often traffic like that can lead to a story or a related story. And sure enough,something popped up.

“The contractor building a new 520 floating bridge is accused of willfully putting the lives of workers in danger by ignoring safety warnings related to cranes being used on the project.

Kiewit-General will receive a fine of more than $150,000 for willful and serious safety violations stemming from an accident at the site in Aberdeen where pontoons for the floating bridge are being constructed, according to a source with knowledge of the incident, which led to an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

On June 21, 2014, a 13,000-pound concrete counterweight being lifted off a construction crane fell to the ground, narrowly missing two workers. Five workers were on the crane at the time, and could have been seriously injured or killed if the crane had collapsed, according to the source.

KIRO Radio has viewed video of the incident, during which the man filming seems to have anticipated an accident of some kind.

“And that’s why I was filming,” he said.

The video was sent to L & I, which led to an investigation.

State inspectors found that a steel hook attached to the top of the counterweight, which is used to lift it, broke free from the concrete and steel frame it was cast in.

The accident led to serious revelations about Kiewit, including accusations that the company knew for nearly 10 years that the steel hooks could be faulty, but failed to take action.

The hook in question, called a lifting eye, was the subject of a manufacturer’s bulletin in 2005 and again in 2011. The bulletin indicated that the steel lifting eyes could fail and should be inspected. If irregularities were found, the manufacturer provided a set of guidelines that companies should follow to fix the lifting eyes.

Kiewit, before it joined with General on the 520 bridge project, owned several tower cranes that used the questionable lifting eyes. Instead of repairing the lifting eyes as the manufacturer recommended, Kiewit attempted its own repairs or, in some cases, didn’t attempt any repairs, the L & I investigation found, according to the source.

The source said Kiewit had, on multiple occasions, disassembled and then re-erected tower cranes in Washington state without replacing potentially faulty lifting eyes when they had the chance.

As a result, Kiewit-General, as a joint venture, will receive willful violations for failing to follow recommendations from the crane equipment manufacturer, failing to address the hazard, and putting employees in direct danger of a tower crane collapse. The company also received serious violations for using a worker that wasn’t qualified to oversee crane disassembly at the Aberdeen site, and for allowing that worker to develop procedures they were not qualified to develop.”


Read the rest of this story,listen to audio and video features showing footage of the crane accident HERE:

This particular bridge project has been plagued with issues, which I covered here after Dave White of News1130 broke the story in BC- this is a *must read* refresher:

Of course, all this talk about bridges,crane collapses and safety violations brought me back to the very big crane mishap that happened on the Port Mann Bridge during construction.

I did a bit of research but couldn’t find any reports detailing the results of the Worksafe BC investigation into that accident, and after going through the archives on the Worksafe BC newsroom site, I called their media room to ask what the findings were or if they were released.

I was told they were not available and that I would have to file an FOI ( Freedom of Information request) to find out. I asked if it were possible to simply find out if any fines or infractions were issued without details, and again, told to file an FOI. (This has already been done by a source and the results will be shared. )

One would think the results of a WorkSafe BC investigation into a very public accident on a public project would not be a private or personal matter.  It is possible to report the findings without naming individuals.

***Update 2pm Dec 19/2014 :

From our dear friend NVG ( virtual fist bump here)  in the comments below, a link to a story from The Sun where it mentions the reason Worksafe BC might not even have anything to FOI – they allowed Kiewit/Flatiron to do their own investigaton. Shocking excerpt :

“What made the gantry collapse? Al Johnson, Work-SafeBC’s regional director in charge of regulating construction, said the two companies that designed and built the bridge, Kiewit and Flatiron, were best able to answer that question.

“Sometimes we do our own investigation, but in this particular incident our officers felt that (the companies) had the engineering expertise – and they brought engineers in that knew specifically about the truss,” Johnson said. “So we were satisfied that they had the right engineers on the job to evaluate what occurred, what went wrong, and how to prevent that … from happening again.”

WorkSafeBC met with the companies on Nov. 7 after their investigation was finished.

“They were using the truss in what they call an ‘unconventional’ way,” Johnson said. “In this cantilevered position, the truss is sitting on two short front legs and two larger back legs.”

When the 90-tonne segment was moved out to the end of the cantilever, the front supporting legs began to bend.

“It would be sort of like if you had a table with very simple legs, like a card table, and you had short legs on one side and longer legs on the other side, and you started to push it forward,” Johnson said. “The front legs collapsed.

“Their engineering design hadn’t given consideration to all the different factors of using it that way.”

Kiewit has a long history of being one of the contractors favoured by the BC Liberal government, along with SNC Lavalin and Macquarie, but one with a questionable track record.

Their safety record was detailed at length in this excellent piece by Tom Sandborn in the Tyee last year:

The ministry of Transportation has yet to respond to the questions asked in this post:


** In February 2014, BIV noted that Kiewit/Flatiron general partnership had filed suit with regards to the segment dropped into the river during the Port Mann bridge incident, alleging the defendents ” failed to “specify and deal with the risk that the main truss might slide during span-by-span erection of segments on a slope.”


The top post of 2012 on “How money and corruption are ruining the land.” originally posted June 19th, 2012

Corruption in government has been on many readers minds this year, backed up by this story, first posted here back in June, which received a whopping number of unique views, catching the attention of readers and governments alike, around the world.

As a precursor to coming stories, I urge you to read this post, and the report, and think about the less sensational side of corruption, the side we don’t often see.

And think about, why most people in B.C. who were approached during the investigation leading to this report…. refused to even talk about it.

“Money and corruption are ruining the land…”

Posted on June 19, 2012by

“…crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits, treating us like sheep, and we’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep.” ~ Ray Davies

Here on this site, I have revealed many breaking news stories of secret deals,evidence of corruption, collusion and a number of other shameful instances of how ‘money and corruption’ are ruining the land – our land here in British Columbia.

Sea to Sky Highway Shadow Tolls and the insidious relationship between the BC Liberals and long time, private partner Macquarie. The same partner that oddly, still managed to keep a position as advisor to the Port Mann project after a failed P3 bid, the terms of which remain secret to this day.

Canada Line construction and the ongoing, equally insidious relationship between SNC Lavalin and the BC Liberals.

Tercon vs British Columbia, a landmark case where the Ministry of Transportation and several high level government employees altered documents and hid details to purposely rig a bid and give a large contract to another ‘ preferred’ bidder.

You name it, there is not a P3 deal, nor a major transportation project that I have not examined,with confidential documents or hard sourced evidence, that does not give rise to an extensive list of questions about the governments ad hoc policies, and the lack of integrity in the bidding process. ( For newer readers, each can be read in detail, on the Best Of page up top)

Throughout these stories, there remained a dark undercurrent that repeats itself time and time again. In many stories, there are what I would consider clear indications of unethical and questionable behavior that lean towards collusion and influence of officials, both crimes in Canada under the competition bureau and of which I have previously written.

Yet we see no investigations.

Business continues as usual, from Gordon Campbell  onto yet an even more disastrous leader, Christy Clark, who has openly discussed her relationship with a powerful man who remained on the Board of Directors for SNC Lavelin – while the company has ongoing contracts and new bids outstanding.

Surprised? Shocked?… Why ?

This is how it works in British Columbia, not unlike how it works in Quebec. We just seem to have perfected the ability to fly under that radar.

This is the preferred way of doing business that most bureacrats with the provincial government, have no problem with…. and one that spans all ministries – none have been exempt from scandal or inference of preferred bidders.

People like myself rely on close sources and data-mining to acquire evidence and documentation of contract and project details kept hidden from the public, since most FOI requests result in pages of useless redacted information.

Earlier this year, CBC did a brief story online, on a study conducted by the ministry of Public Safety into corruption in the construction industry in B.C. and in Quebec. The only real details given to the press on this report,which was not released, were that very few wanted to talk about the issue of  construction corruption in B.C. , despite the fact that the construction industry overall, was at a medium to high risk of corruption in this province.

Imagine that.

So few of the people or organizations contacted wanted to talk about this issue of corruption in commercial construction – and by association of public sector projects, the government –  that it made it difficult to get a firm vision of what exactly is going on.

In fact, the report relied on many anonymous sources in some instances to get the information needed to make an assessment.In spite of this aura of reluctance and opposition to prying questions, the report did manage to uncover some revealing ways our public projects are at risk for corruption… and the way our government makes this possible.

The report in question was released informally to me by the federal government recently following an FOI request, and confirms much of what I have reported here in many stories over the last few years. I recommend a read of the entire report, for the insight it offers into the problems facing large public projects here in B.C.

Here are some highlights:

  • Investigators found that the most vulnerable aspect of the commercial construction process, including public projects, was the procurement process ( bid process) and project management. Sources indicated officials responsible for procurement were often uninformed about the cost of construction project costs and the lack of accountability and transparency in the bidding process across Canada was noted.
  • Investigators found many factors that contributed to an environment where bribery and fraud flourished and were nearly impossible to detect,including the large scale of public projects,the uniqueness and complexity of projects,the concealment of some items of work by others, the lack of transparency in the industry and the extent of government involvement.
  • Situations that facilitate the formation of construction cartels and bribery, included the size of the project. Some projects like dams, power plants and highways that are extremely large in nature and costly,making it easier to hide bribes and over inflated  claims. It was also noted these larger projects often have a limited number of bidders, and those bidders are often well known to public officials and other bidders, again facilitating bribes and cartels.
  • Lack of transparency – costs are often kept secret even when public money is being spent. Commercial confidentiality takes precedent over public interest, and publication of financial information and routine inspection of books and records which could uncover irregularities or prevent them, does not take place. ( in the case of the Sea to Sky highway project, companies participating in the project had to sign confidentiality agreements preventing them from talking about their involvement in the project in some cases, for up to 7 years, as you can read in the Sea to Sky shadow toll series on the Best Of page at the top of my site – Laila)
  • The extent of government involvement– There is significant government involvement in public projects. Even private sector projects require government approval at different levels. The power wielded by government officials in every stage of the construction process,when combined with the structural and financial complexity of these projects, makes it quite easy for unscrupulous government officials to extract large bribes from those undertaking the projects.
  • The impact of corruption in projects goes beyond bribes and fraud, to poor-quality construction and low funding for maintenance. Because much of the infrastructure is hidden behind concrete or brick, builders can cut costs, bribe inspectors to approve sub-standard construction leading to poor quality construction.

( In Quebec, years of this kind of construction on public infrastructure is creating a problem for the province, with crumbling bridges and overpasses that need extensive rehabilitation. Will we see the same thing happen here in British Columbia with some of our major transportation and infrastructure projects? Certainly many projects have already shown evidence of substandard quality, via the expansion joints on the William R Bennett bridge in Kelowna, and the ever collapsing retaining wall on Lougheed, part of the Port Mann project. – Laila)

  • Sources in British Columbia indicated that government officials responsible for the procurement process ( tender and bidding process) lack the required experience in relation to the commercial construction process.

Many who did have the experience retired or moved onto the private sector. Government officials often failed to follow their own procurement policies. ( I have explored this in detail on a previous post, where a source revealed to me that often, the officials in charge of a project will rely on employees of a bidding company for direction, via hiring them as a consultant in the process. Fairness reviewers deemed with examining the bid process for fairness, are often seen as being in a perceived conflict via work with the government on other projects- Laila)

It is simply not acceptable, nor is it in the publics interest, to allow often incompetent, and more often unethical business practices to continue within the B.C. government. It absolutely must stop.

In 2010, in following final ruling of the decade long Tercon vs. British Columbia court case, I said the following:

“.. What is needed is a full and independent inquiry into the actions of the government then, and now, to reveal the truth of what is going on in that portfolio. If the government intends to stand by its claim of administering an honest and open government with integrity, let it start with the Basi-Virk trial upon our doorstep, and end with the Tercon Judgement. The integrity of the entire bidding process, the future of local industry in our province, and what little faith we may have remaining in our elected officials, depends on it.”

That was 2010. As we know, the Basi-Virk trial was shut down faster than a bear trap snaps its victim, and while Vaughn Palmer picked up the Tercon story, the government denied and ignored any lingering questions.

Two years later, we find ourselves with a premier who campaigned on bringing open government to the people and then quickly revealed herself as being more secretive than Campbell ever was. A premier who mandates transparency and accountability to ensure tax dollars are being spent wisely to give British Columbians a better quality of life… but applies that mandate selectively, targeting her foes and protecting her friends.

I say now, that this report bolsters and supports my repeated calls for a full investigation  and public inquiry into the public procurement process within all ministries of the government of British Columbia, and the sooner the better.

To do anything other, is to condone corruption within government by our elected officials -a concept which should have never been tolerable in the first place.

Public Safety Construction Corruption Report PDF format ( I will be happy to email you a copy of this report upon request)

Port Mann Bridge builder Kiewit faces construction concerns in the U.S.

Intrepid reporter Dave White of News 1130, came across a big story today….–concerns-raised-in-us-around-bc-highways-contractor

“SEATTLE (NEWS1130) – Some alleged major problems with massive construction projects have been exposed in the US, involving a contractor also hired to build and maintain BC highways. The accusations centre around work done by Kiewit.

One of the apparent problems is near Seattle where Kiewit is rebuilding the SR 520 Floating Bridge over Lake Washington. Tracy Vedder is an investigative reporter with KOMO News; she tells us pontoons built to float the bridge may be failing.

“They’re basically marine structures,” she describes. “They need to be able to float and they need to be watertight. The first cycle of six pontoons that came out of Aberdeen that were constructed primarily by the prime contractors, Kiewit, has developed … quite extensive leaks.”

She says Kiewit is being investigated in California after allegations of construction flaws on the $6.5-billion rebuild of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

“There were some significant construction issues,” she tells us. “It’s being built specifically to withstand a major earthquake in the future.”

Vedder had difficulty getting a response from Kiewit, but they eventually got in touch. “They did say that they stand firmly behind the safety and quality of the work they’ve done in all of the bridges they’ve built in North America.”

However, the company deferred her questions about the SR520 project to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

Vedder says this all comes as the Seattle Mariners sue Kiewit for problems with steel structures at Safeco Field.

She emphasizes her work isn’t done yet. “There’s a lot more to find out.”

In an e-mail from a BC Ministry of Transportation spokesperson, the province says it has complete confidence in Kiewit-Flatiron, and that the contractor was selected after an extensive and multifaceted process. The ministry insists work on projects like the Sea to Sky Highway and Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project has been frequently audited to ensure the highest standards are met, and that any problems found are the responsibility of Kiewit to repair.

Kiewit has had its problems in BC, most recently with a retaining wall rebuild at the Cape Horn Interchange. WorkSafe BC also investigated a worker’s death from a falling boulder at a dam project in 2008 in which safety provisions were brought into question.

News1130 has made requests for comment from Kiewit. We’re hoping to hear back from the the contractor today”

Interesting news and compelling to those who follow the transportation titans in BC closely, like both Dave and I do.

Do a little more searching on this Seattle floating bridge story and you find a host of other issues associated with that bridge, like workers drinking on the job, and contract terms that mean lucrative bonuses for the builder on one end… even if their own delays on the other end were behind it.

More alarming, are public records that indicate Kiewit installed faulty components despite being advised by a Washington State DOT engineer that he could not structurally approve it:

“Now the Problem Solvers have uncovered a new structural problem buried in thousands of documents we obtained through the Public Records Act: The type of structural weakness that could be as catastrophic as WSDOT’s own animation from 2007 depicting how the old bridge might come apart in a severe windstorm.  The key is the joints between pontoons and how they are connected with rebar called Hook Bars.

Internal WSDOT e-mails from last spring show that structural rebar in Pontoon V was “missing”. WSDOT’s own engineer Patrick Clarke noted that he could not “structurally approve it” without those essential pieces.  In spite of that, documents show that contractor Kiewit opted to ignore Clarke’s recommendations for repair, and quote “proceed at risk”.

Kiewit went on to do the same with the two other large pontoons so all three now on the lake are missing that critical rebar.  A second WSDOT engineer also found this was “not structurally acceptable.”  Documents and our insider also indicate that, just like in the WSDOT animation, the loss of that critical rebar would weaken the joints by as much as 50 percent, and could cause a similar “unravelling” in a severe, 100 year, windstorm event. “

The KOMO investigative reporter, Tracy Vedder, displays her exacting nature for facts in this telling email exchange between the herself and officials who are so busy spinning answers that they occasionally wrap themselves up in their own words.

Now, when we take a look at the San Francisco- Oakland bridge KOMO reporter Tracy Vedder mentions above, we find another concerning scenario, and another case of  officials stating everything is fine, while documentation shows otherwise.

“A builder of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridgefailed to disclose that a 19-foot section of concrete in the foundation of the span’s signature tower had not hardened before it was tested. By keeping quiet about the problem, the builder prevented further examination or repair.

The Bee found descriptions of the apparent defect in records provided by Caltrans last fall to reassure the public about the overall stability of the suspension segment of the bridge’s eastern span. Experts said the problem, combined with other construction and testing lapses by the California Department of Transportation and its contractors, raises new questions about the structural integrity of the bridge.

Kiewit-FCI-Manson, a joint venture, built the foundation as part of a $177 million contract. It did not provide the problematic 2007 test results until after a Bee investigation in November showed that a Caltrans employee skipped required test preparation for separate checks of the same foundation and fabricated results on other structures”

The story sparked a federal highways authority investigation into the response of Caltrans ( the state transportation authority) and ultimately a series of errors with testing concrete on other bridges and projects was uncovered.

I took a look at the Safeco field lawsuit, which has been going on for years, and to be fair the basis for the case was not based on Kiewits work, but rather steel products that were built by subcontractor for the project that were problematic. The Mariners sued the build team which included Kiewit for damages and liability.

Both Port Mann builders Kiewit and Flatiron worked on the San Francisco-Oakland bridge build detailed above.

More to come next week, but you might want to refresh your memory on the Public Safety Construction Corruption report that I obtained earlier this year on a freedom of information request….

Bait and switch toll reduction won’t help BC Liberals.

From my new post headlined over at HuffPost BC :

“The Port Mann Bridge project has been steeped in controversy from its humble beginnings as an economically prudent plan to twin the existing bridge at a cost of $1.5 billion to what we’ve ended up with today: a completely new bridge and highway project totaling $3.3 billion financed through tolls.

Wednesday’s announcement by newbie B.C. Transportation Minister Mary Polak that the tolls on the Port Mann will be reduced for a period of time with incentives — call now and the next five people get a free Shamwow — is no less controversial than the project itself for one very good reason.

Mary Polak is of course a Liberal MLA in Langley facing an election in 2013, along with MLA Rich Coleman and likely Surrey MLA Stephanie Cadieux. Each has confirmed they intend to run again to the press and it’s very apparent to everyone (except Mike Klassen apparently) that the Liberal brand has been all but blown up by the disingenuous Christy Clark. Quite frankly, these MLAs are going to need every bit of help they can get.

The question is, will a reduction in tolls make any difference at all to hardened voters weary of the endless stream of politicking from Clark, the second most unpopular premier in Canada? I don’t think so, and this is why. The Liberals are using the old bait and switch trick, one they’ve perfected over the last 10 years. Sure we get a discount at first, but eventually we’re all going to be paying — for the rest of our lives quite frankly…”

Check out the rest at

Returning Monday September 10th with new stories, new posts.

Generally speaking, summer is a bit of dead zone for political stories, however this summer has been a non-stop series of eyebrow raising news items that have continued right into September.

I’ve taken a bit of break for the last week and a half to concentrate on the back to school transition, but will be back next Monday  with some stories on the Port Mann among other items. Rumour is new transportation minister Polak might be stripping or pushing back tolls altogether in order to get re-elected in her riding, since tolls are a huge issue here for everyone south of the Fraser and the Liberals need all the help they can get. We’ll also take a look back at other projects the Liberals have screwed British Columbians over on, via the lucrative shadow tolls that line corporate pockets.. if you’ve forgotten, or are still not aware of how Falcon and crew committed the province to 20 years + of payments to offshore and out of province corporations.

I’ll also be taking a look at why independent candidates are incredibly important in the next election here in B.C. and how they can keep the governing party and opposition in check.

That and more, next week! Until then, get out of the house and enjoy this fantastic late summer weather while you can, and enjoy the beautiful BC scenery like I did recently…

Tax cuts + ensuing loss of revenue = a deliberate financial crisis…and a reason to introduce the P3 method of building

I  have never seen more senators express discontent with their jobs. … I think the major cause is that, deep down in our hearts, we have been accomplices to doing something terrible and unforgivable to this wonderful country.

Deep down in our hearts, we know that we have bankrupted America(British Columbia-l.y.) and that we have given our children a legacy of bankruptcy. … We have defrauded our country to get ourselves elected. ~ John C. Danforth.

A powerful quote by yet another American politician, because I can’t seem to ever find anything as good that a Canadian politician has ever said. ( should we be concerned?)

To me, it merely takes a quick swap of the words British Columbia for America and MLA for senator, and you have a very good perception of where 10 years of Liberal policy have brought us.

In all of the examination of the P3 projects I have been investigating, I have yet to take the time to sit and determine how it was the conditions became ripe to introduce the contentious idea of inviting private partners into public projects.

British Columbia has long been a province of labour driven markets, union built and strongly possessive of that. P3’s are one of the top threats to unions, because the private partners building and financing them here are for the most part, foreign offshore companies that hold massive portions of their respective markets.

Peter Kiewit and Sons- American, Macquarie- Australian( although the appear to own a good portion of BC assets), Bilfinger-Berger- German, ACS infrastructure/Dragados-Spanish.

How did we get to a point in this province when the major builders of our largest public assets are under direct administration of non-Canadian corporate interests? Why are our tax dollars hard at work padding the pockets of these companies while our smaller Canadian contractors are relegated to the lowly sub-contractor status?

A bit of research put the pieces together in short order – pieces that indicate a calculated and dedicate strategy of privatization of nearly all of British Columbia’s infrastructure -now and in the future.

Let’s begin… and take a jaunt back to 2001,when Campbell first stepped into the captain’s chair:

In May 2001, the voters of  British Columbia, went to the polls and swept away a decade of social democratic public policies instituted by the New Democratic Party. The Liberals won virtually every seat in the provincial legislature (seventy-seven of seventy-nine), as well as a strong majority of the votes in every region of the province.

The new government, which emphasized its leadership capabilities, quickly settled down to a short-term agenda of increasing business confidence by implementing, among other reforms, an across-the-board twenty-five-per-cent cut in personal income tax (the provincial government’s single largest revenue source).

The resulting financial crisis was then used as a driver to not only cut government activity but to encourage a re-thinking of what the responsibilities of the provincial state should be and how the public sector should go about meeting these responsibilities. 

It was within the context of a majority government enjoying strong popular legitimacy and determined to make the province more business-friendly, a financial crisis, and a deeper drive to “re-invent government” that public-private partnerships (P3s) were introduced into British Columbia as an important option for executing large infrastructure projects.

Aha. Bingo. It makes one look at all the tax cuts to income tax Campbell has brought in, in an entirely new light. Sure, they  tell us that it give us more money to spend, in theory anyways, but certainly they also cut revenue from the governments bottom line.

Hence, the public began to see other ways to increase the government coffers, such as increase in user fees, msp premiums, university tuitions… But I digress, let’s go back to how the government forged ahead with its plan to thrust P3’s into play when building public projects, and how far they went to make sure they happened – no matter what.

The Government of British Columbia ran into substantial difficulty in developing P3s. This was at least in part due to failure in the early days of the initiative of moving beyond transactional leadership.

As a result of the government’s failure to provide transformational leadership on this issue, there was confusion as to whether the government’s interest in P3s was a product of a sincere desire to re-invent the role of the state along New Public Management lines or whether it was merely an attempt to deal with the fiscal crisis it had invented for itself.

This was problematic: saving money is not generally something P3s can do for government, other than over the very short-term.  

Yet, as we will see, for many it became the key reason to either engage in P3s or not to engage in them. Meanwhile, other critics began to question whether the government’s embrace of P3s had more to do with ideology than a sincere commitment to better public-sector management. 

In the second section of this article, I will look at two early flagship projects that ran into trouble: the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre (Abbotsford Hospital), with an approximate public-sector cost of $1.6 billion, and the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit, transportation system designed to allow passenger travel within or throughout an urban area, usually employing surface, elevated, or underground railway systems or some combination of these.  Line (RAV Line), with an approximate public-sector cost of $1.5 billion.

Difficulties were only overcome when the government undertook extraordinary efforts to intervene in the decision-making processes of local officials.

This author is right on the money – literally.

The P3 projects undertaken in our province will not, I repeat, will not, save the government or taxpayer any money.

In fact, it would be in publics best interest for the auditor general to call an immediate halt to the P3 method of building right now, and for him to undertake a meticulous audit of every single project that has been built-in this manner.

There is a far bigger story here than the shadow tolls, which are just part of the secrecy involved in not telling the public the whole story. The real issue is the total cost of the project, however paid.

And of course the fact that the cost of the project is not recorded entirely as part of the provincial debt as such, is lost on most of the public. Because the government doesn’t have to finance the job, the billions of dollars of P3 debt needn’t be carried on the books as debt – at least that is how the BC government sees it. They call this debt a contractual obligation and keep track of it separately.

There is no doubt that the government could have continued its efforts to introduce P3s without alteration. Holding all but two seats in the legislature, it could have easily bulldozed several into place, regardless of opposition.

However, such an effort would have undermined its efforts to re-invent government along the lines and patterns associated with the New Public Management.

If P3s were going to be accepted in British Columbia as more than an ideological project or a piece of financial sleight-of-hand, a different approach was required both for P3s and other forms of alternative service delivery, one that shifted leadership on the issue from a transactional to a transformative basis.

Much of this new approach was codified  in a collection of documents released roughly around the government’s first anniversary in office, the Capital Asset Management Framework, or CAMF .

At the same time, the government also created Partnerships BC.  This agency has several functions. It acts as a champion for the P3 model within government and as a consulting agency and adviser

Ah yes, Partnerships BC,that government created entity that is not only in charge of promoting and facilitating the growth of the Public-Private partnership in BC, they conveniently are the ones in charge of evaluating those same projects – using  faulty and many would call, highly deceptive accounting methods to ensure each project gets a passing grade on their Value for Cost reports.

These reports are ridiculous at best and would not pass muster in any legitimate business practice outside of the P3 industry because of the sleight of hand manner in which they are crafted.

Time to get back to the origins of P3’s in British Columbia. Clearly, there had to be a first, and Abbotsford Hospital was forced to be the first project on the books. Some might say forced is a strong word,but the facts support that description:

According to those interviewed, members of the Fraser Health Authority board–some of whom had substantial expertise in private-sector finance and real-estate development–found problems with the consultant’s report and the arguments made in favour of a DBFO P3.

One interviewee indicated that the FHA board instead preferred a design-build contract, with more traditional public financing and operation. In addition to their scepticism regarding the consultant’s work, members of the FHA board were also seriously concerned that the savings usually achieved through competitive bidding would not be realized.

 The FHA board felt that the facility being contemplated would be too small to generate returns on a scale sufficient to attract widespread interest among firms with expertise to execute such contracts, given the risks and costs involved in bidding. At this point, the provincial government ordered the board to accept the project as a P3 or face removal.

Either way, the province had lost confidence in the ability of the FHA board to lead the project and transferred some FHA staff members and responsibility for executing the project to Partnerships BC.

Subsequently, an operating company  was set up to manage the relationship with the successful proponent, which would be at arm’s length from both the FHA and the Provincial Health Services Authority.
Some insight into why the government made the decision to override the Fraser Health Authority can perhaps be gained in an interview given to a trade journal by then-finance minister Gary Collins regarding the Abbotsford Hospital.

He said that the project was not only important as an individual health facility but also for the future of the P3 model in British Columbia. Some projects had to be first, and the Abbotsford Hospital was seen as a good candidate. This was not only because of its attributes but also because of the strong support that voters in the area had shown for the government.

He told the reporter that this reduced the political risks involved, since there was little likelihood that voters would change allegiances if the project were to turn out badly. In other words, the new Abbotsford Hospital would be built as a P3 because it was feasible both economically and politically, not necessarily because it was the best way to build this particular hospital.

In the end, the fears expressed by the FHA board did come to pass when one of the two finalist consortiums declined to submit a bid, leaving Partnerships BC with an uncontested “best and final offer” stage of the proposal process.

Since 2001–when the present attempt to build a hospital in Abbotsford was set in motion–costs have increased substantially to the present $424 million up front, plus total lease payments of $1.2 billion over thirty years, excluding various adjustments.(2008 $$)

You may recall, there were issues to be worked out with the RAV line as well, in which the project was nearly stalled several times. It took a great deal of negotiation, debate and financial inducements to sweeten the deal -all of which I won’t rehash for the sake of space,but can be read by clicking on the link at the end of this post. Clearly, there are more than a few issues with P3 projects in this province, and I am not the first to harp about it by far, but I may perhaps end up being the one who won’t let it go. Read on:

The government’s inability to offer a clear answer to the question of why it decided to undertake each of these projects as a P3 helps to explain why these two projects (Abbotsford Hospital and RAV line ) became so controversial and were a symptom of its failure to demonstrate transformational leadership on the issue.

When it could not produce a coherent answer rooted in its desires to reform and improve public management, the quality of public projects and other such beneficial aims linked to values, the government fell back on the stock answer that employing the DBFO P3 model would save money. However, this is a difficult claim to justify.

As an example, the government found itself stumbling for answers when a report prepared by a prominent accounting firm questioned whether undertaking the Abbotsford Hospital as a P3 would produce any savings over the lifetime of the anticipated contract (the goal traditional procurements are meant to emphasize).

When confronted with the opinion of the accountants–who had to piece their evidence together using forensic techniques because of the government’s lack of disclosure–the province’s health minister admitted the case in favour of building the Abbotsford Hospital as a P3 was not fully established.

The situation provoked the following rebuke from Vaughn Palmer, British Columbia’s most widely read political columnist:

“The Liberals have articulated only the vaguest notions about public-private partnerships. And they have deliberately, systematically withheld key information about the Abbotsford P3…. Now we have the spectacle of one of B.C.’s most respected accounting firms being forced to rely on cloak-and-dagger methods to try to get some measure of the project…. The case for a P3 to build the hospital in Abbotsford is “not proven,” to quote the health minister. Until the case is proven, the Liberals should not be risking tax dollars on this adventure. “
( from Vaughn Palmer, no less! ~LY)

This shouldn’t be surprising, since it is very difficult to reduce costs simply by converting a proposed project into a P3. This is why proponents have to delve into attaching values to “risks” transferred to private parties in order to justify such projects on a cost-to-the-taxpayer basis. Such valuations are highly subjective and opaque.

They also hide at least one important fallacy: while it is theoretically possible to successfully transfer the risks related to a project to one private partner and allow the state to save money, it is probably impossible for the state to do so over the long term if it wishes to undertake more than one project.

This is because such transactions only save money if the private partners mis-calculate the costs of the risks they have assumed (in other words, the private partners accept a greater risk than they are being paid to take).

It stretches credulity to believe that the powerful pension funds and transnational financial institutions that finance P3s will not learn from such mistakes and re-price their services to both re-coup their losses and improve the profitability when subsequent projects are developed. At some point, enough cycles of the game are completed that the province will end up paying exactly the same amount as if it did not transfer risks, but it will be out of pocket for the higher tendering costs associated with a P3.

The theoretical difficulties involved in saving money through the use of risk-transferring P3s (especially in the hospital sector) are matched by the concrete evidence from the United Kingdom, noted above.

That the province’s motivation for using P3 models was at best, unclear, bred suspicion among stakeholders.

 There is always a risk that a government will use the P3 model to “Enronize” its books: in other words, turn capital costs (which count as debt) into lease payments (which don’t count as debt) in order to claim it is reducing deficits and debts when in fact it is not doing so. This possibility was raised by consultants hired by unions opposing the RAV Line P3 after they reviewed some important correspondence between the premier’s top public servant and the CEO.

Preventing this requires a great deal of vigilance on the part of accountants and other watchdogs, such as credit-rating agencies. The suspicion of unions and other civil society stakeholders was only compounded by the government’s use of the term P3 in association with transactions that were clearly privatizations.

These included the sale of BC Rail (through a ninety-nine-year renewable lease) and a similar scheme that would have involved the Coquihalla Highway in the interior of the province. This latter deal was scrapped due to near-unanimous protests from communities along the highway. Meanwhile, trade unions in British Columbia came to see P3s as a threat and something to be opposed on principle.

This suspicion was further strengthened by provincial legislation (now ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada that abrogated a number of clauses in union contracts so as to facilitate the contracting-out of support services, such as would occur through the construction of a P3 hospital.

Even some prominent investors were unclear as to why the provincial government wanted to embark on the construction of infrastructure using P3 models and proved hesitant to commit capital to the province.

This all came from a  2008 report written by Daniel Cohn  in which he clearly answers some of the many questions I, and others, have had.

The Liberals have since completed the Sea to Sky highway, the Golden Ears Bridge, and started the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The Port Mann, of course, tanked as a P3. From  research and investigation, and from what I can see of the few documents made public in these projects, the Liberal government has definitely “Enronized” the books in a manner befitting a full audit of all the p3 projects in the province, every single one of them.

Partnerships BC is in a clear and substantiated conflict of interest in its designated roles of promoting and furthering P3’s development in BC, as well as monitoring, advising and fairly evaluating those same projects. The so-called independent fairness advisors have previous relationships with the government, which calls into question how independent they really are. Campbell decreed every project over a certain amount must be considered as a P3 first and foremost.How much do you want to bet he ends up on the board of directors of perhaps one or more of the companies involved in these deals?

Like Enron, the Liberal government has used accounting loopholes, special purpose entities( Partnerships BC, Transportation Investment Corporation) and poor financial reporting to hide billions of dollars of debt as a result of these projects.  And also like Enron, at some point it’s all going to come crashing down around Kevin Falcon, Shirley Bond, and the rest of the Liberal team in the finance department.

I just hope Campbell is still around when it happens.


Breaking news: BC liberals inked ‘hidden toll’ into Sea to Sky highway deal – and we all pay for the next 25 years.

For years, I have often wondered why, in such  ‘tough economic times’, the very expensive  Sea to Sky highway was not tolled.

I’ve called for it, many of you have called for it, and last year,  even Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called for it as an avenue for revenue to solve Translinks money woes. It just makes sense. Make it resident exempt and let the thousands of visitors and locals who enjoy the slopes of Whistler pay to play.

What Gregor did not know at the time ( and neither did most of us ) is that the Sea to Sky highway is a very  lucrative avenue for revenue – but not for the province of BC.

In actuality, the Sea to Sky highway is costing the provincial government money, every single time a vehicle drives up or down the highway.

Sources have revealed to me, that the BC government inked a hidden toll into the agreement to build and maintain the Sea to Sky highway, via a model commonly known in the transportation/road-building industry as a ” shadow toll”. 

As a result, the BC government will be paying a shadow toll on every vehicle that uses the highway for the duration of the agreement, which is 25 years. Where does that toll go?  To the private company that operates and maintain the road –  otherwise known as the ‘concessionaire’ in the agreement with the province –

This  is a screen shot of a page taken from a ‘strictly confidential’ document titled ” PPP’s- a Private Partners Perspective“,which is downloadable here in PDF format :  Macquarie shadow tolls  You can click on the screen shot to see the larger view.








Shadow tolls are quite simply explained as  hidden tolls that the government pays to a  private partner in a P3 project as an incentive to get a return on their initial and long term investment  in the project –  a method to sweeten the pot, some might say .

Rather than you and I paying a direct toll each  and every time we travel the Sea to Sky highway,  the BC government has been paying  a fee based on actual vehicle usage-( aka vehicle usage payments) for the length of the highway.

That fee is forwarded to the private partner, along with their other regular, agreed- upon payments. So, the more people who drive the highway, the more money that private partner hauls in via those crafty shadow tolls…. no wonder the province pushes Whistler tourism!

Ironically, while you are sitting there, trying to take all this in and wondering why you’ve never heard about this, just know that this has not been a secret within the industry, or among other governments.

In fact,  further investigation has revealed that while the BC government kept this hidden from the public, there are several examples online proving that the BC government has been openly sharing the details of the financing agreement with other transportation departments and ministries in governments around the world, who refer to the Sea to Sky shadow toll arrangement as a ‘stellar case example’.

The following screen shot comes from a  PDF document that I was directed to over the weekend, and was available until this evening when it suddenly became inaccessible for a period of time after I left a message for the fellow who authored the report for a conference in 2009. (Dave has not returned my call yet )

Thankfully, I had already saved this file –  which can be viewed here in a PDF format : winterolympicsgoogle docs  – however I did obtain screen shots of the most important pages of the document that again, details the shadow toll on the Sea to Sky highway, which you see here below.

Click on the screen shot to bring up the larger view, and read the PDF document above to see the entire paper on the Sea to Sky highway in relation to 2010 winter olympics :










If  you still need more proof  there is a hidden toll being paid by the government to the private partner, here is a link to a webcached page from 2005,  of an American Annual Privatization report from the Reason Foundation:

Excerpt :

Several new PPP transportation projects are under way in Canada. In British Columbia, a long-term concession approach is being used for the $500 million Golden Ears toll bridge project across the Fraser River. Three private-sector teams have been short-listed to provide formal proposals.

BC is using a design-build-finance-operate approach to modernize the (non-toll) Sea-to-Sky Highway in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The concession for the $340 million project will run for 25 years, and the government will provide shadow toll payments over the life of the agreement.

A similar approach is being used in Alberta for a $400 million project to design, build, finance, and maintain an 11 km. section of the ring road around Edmonton. The term of this deal will be 30 years.

Now, I would really like to tell you who in the BC government, or who on the S2S team is handing out all this information to everyone but the people of BC, but I can’t.  No one will talk.

The BC government never released the details of this ‘shadow toll’  to the public,  and it was only mentioned in passing in the main agreement ( )

Although the Concession Agreement specifically prohibits a toll being charged by the concessionaire in the preamble, there is an oblique reference to the hidden toll in Section 32, which outlines how performance payments are to be calculated.


32.1.2  The aggregate monthly payments made on account of the Monthly Availability
Payment, Monthly Vehicle Usage Payment and Monthly Traffic Management
Payment components of the Total Performance Payment in respect of a Contract
Year, together with the Safety Performance Payment and DELETED for that
Contract Year, will be adjusted  in accordance with Section 32.2 [Annual

The Annex to this agreement has all the juicy details, but again, since it has never been released –  to my knowledge – this simply leaves  me – and the rest of BC- with a lot more questions than answers.

First of all, how does the government track,and record, the number of vehicles using the Sea to Sky highway, in order to determine the amount to pay to the private partner ?

My sources then directed me to the company that designed the traffic management systems for the Sea to Sky highway, ICX Technologies. 

On their site, one can find several case studies, again, downloadable with a PDF document that describes the system they installed to monitor traffic on the highway, here : Case-Study_Sea-to-Sky-Hwy


– Portable LED-based dynamic message signs that provide advance notification of
construction activities and incidents
– Fixed video cameras that are image-capture-capable are used to capture visual traffic
Microwave-based vehicle detection stations that provide speed, volume and occupancy

License plate readers implementing character recognition technologies, such as license
plate readers providing travel time information

– Communication capabilities for all ITS field sites provided through the use of wireless technologies

At the time this document was produced, the data from the sensors was being transmitted via wireless to a Peter Kiewit and Sons office in downtown Vancouver, however the document goes on to state that ” future provisions of the project will allow for the transfer of traffic data and images to project and ministry websites.”

Think about what I am telling you.

A highly sophisticated system not only capable of  counting vehicles, but also the number of passenger and licence plates, was, and may well still be, collecting personal and private data from drivers unaware this was even occurring.

I don’t know about you, but I have a big problem with my personal and vehicle information being tracked,recorded and transmitted to an unknown location with unknown security protocols for an unknown amount of time. In fact, I doubt this is even acceptable under privacy legislation, considering this also was never made apparent to drivers using that highway.  Think about the implications  of the use of this technology during the Olympics, if  licence plate data was accessed for security purposes.

We know Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon said  all along that the Sea to Sky Highway was going to be a toll-free highway. Clearly, they were not being truthful with us. Lies of omission are lies nonetheless.

All of these shadow tolls  are coming out of government coffers, which ultimately comes out of our pockets.  You, and I, and every other taxpayer in this province are literally paying twice for this road every time a vehicle drives up or down it, and until now, no one other than those involved in the industry has spoken  openly about it.

Ironically, this same concern over such secrecy and the possibility of a hidden tax on the citizens, created anxiety for NDP MLA Jenny Kwan back in 2002, when she questioned then transportation minister Judith Reid about shadow tolls  in the legislature.

2002 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 37th Parliament

J. Reid: It states in the policy document that was released with this piece of proposed legislation, which was actually introduced in the House last spring, that the business case for any toll road would have to have a calculation where the benefits to the travelling public would have to exceed the tolls. Along with that there has to be a business case that, in order to get a private sector…. Obviously, if your tolls are too high, people won’t use that route, and they can’t have a return on investment. There does have to be a reason that works.

When we talk about public-private partnerships, those can be a range of different agreements from complete private sector investment to, obviously, the complete public sector investment and any range in between. If the government has to put in a certain amount in order to bring down the tolls so they meet this criterion and so there is a business case that can be made, that’s all within that realm of options available to government in looking at how we’re going to move forward and finance projects.

It makes no sense whatsoever, to think of anyone investing and building a road where the tolls were so high that people wouldn’t use it. We have to look at business cases where it’s workable. The example I used when we were discussing this in committee stage on Bill 62 was in the lower mainland, where you have high traffic volumes. The higher the traffic volumes the more sense it makes, because then you’re providing a good benefit, and it brings the tolls down low enough so people are enjoying that benefit and are willing to use those roads, and it works out well for the different parties involved.

There is a full range of opportunity and possibility, but there are a lot of natural constraints around this where it just does not make sense to use toll roads. It doesn’t make sense from a business case, where you wouldn’t attract an investor, and it wouldn’t make sense if the tolls are too high and they exceed the benefit that people are receiving. There are natural, commonsense restraints around this. There is limited application of this. We do believe that there are some applications, and the lower mainland is a case in point, around the gateway and another crossing of the Fraser River.

J. Kwan: Are shadow tolls captured by the definition of tolls in the bill?

           Hon. J. Reid: A shadow toll is where the government would pay a toll per vehicle, rather than a direct user-pay. Under the definition of toll in this section, it would include the concept of a shadow toll.

J. Kwan: Could the minister please explain what a shadow toll is? I actually don’t know what a shadow toll is. That was in the discussion paper. It’s not incorporated in the act. But what is it? In some ways, I suppose one could argue that it might just be a hidden tax.

           Hon. J. Reid: A shadow toll is a situation where you have a private investor who has built a road or a section of road, but the arrangement is that vehicles themselves don’t stop and pay the toll. There is a calculation of the vehicles using the roadway, and the government compensates the company based on the usage of that roadway.


           J. Kwan: So the government pays for the toll and to the private sector, whoever happens to be operating the roadway. That’s incorporated within the definition of tolls in this bill. Are Forests roads captured in the definition of highways, then, in this act?

           Hon. J. Reid: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the question. I think it’s an excellent question. I just want to verify some legal wording around this, so I will be responding to that question as soon as that information comes in to me.

           J. Kwan: I assume that the answer will come at some point during this debate — yes? Thank you.

Just back to the issue around shadow tolls for one minute. Why isn’t there a specific definition to say what a shadow toll is? In the definitions section, a “toll means a charge for the use of some or all of a concession highway by a vehicle.” When you read that, one assumes that the charge is actually to the consumer. Although if government pays for it, it is also charged to the consumer, but it’s not the direct charge. Why isn’t that term “shadow toll” in the definition section? It was in the discussion paper.

           Hon. J. Reid: The definitions section of the act is around legal terms, and shadow toll is a concept. In order to give validity to the act, it isn’t necessary to have that under the definitions.


Isn’t that just setting the scene for the increased likelihood that these hidden shadow tolls would soon be used more and more often?  I think so. By not defining shadow tolls as a hidden toll nonetheless, the goverment has been able to easily work this into the P3 scene with ease.

It is this very reason that the government and the road building industry would rather you not know all this information, and it is the inherent lack of transparency and secretiveness that alarms both myself and soon, the rest of the public.

If the public becomes aware of these hidden tolls,  it potentially prevents future projects from being set up this way, and makes it  much harder to entice a private partner with thoughts of lovely extra payments coming their way.

Ironically though,  it is this very secretiveness combined with the substantially increased costs  associated with this model, that is behind the decision of many foreign governments to move away from shadow tolling in a time when the public demands more accountability and trust in their governments. So why is our government using it?

Now try – for a moment –  to forget that this highway was deemed by industry pundits as being over built and over priced,  and forget that we could have paid far less had the government built it as a public project without foreign interests.

Who was in charge of the transportation ministry at the time this deal was done?

None other than Kevin Falcon, who was ironically accepting the 2005 Gold Award for Project Financing on the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project….  Imagine that. Someone actually gave the BC government an award for coming up with this idea.

But he wasn’t alone in all of this, certainly not, he was part and parcel with the most unpopular premier on earth, Gordon Campbell, who pushed the highway along speedily when it became apparent it was conditional to the 2010 Olympic bid.

Gordon Campbell, Olympics, mittens

Unfortunately, the information given to me by my source, only leads to more disturbing questions than answers.

How many other projects been arranged using Shadow Tolls as a part of the deal? The Pitt Meadows bridge perhaps? Kicking Horse Canyon?  That Canada line that has been plagued with rumours of  the equivalent  in a ” rider toll”?

Are any P3 projects in other sectors  subject to this same kind of hidden toll, or fees based on other usage?

What has, or what is the government doing to recoup the costs of paying the toll to the private partner? And why is these constant payments not openly included in the final cost of the project?

Has the government broken any privacy laws by scanning licence plates and using microwave technology to determine occupancy of the vehicles, now or during the last 5 years it has been in active use?  Who is in charge of our licence plate information now, where is it being stored and what assurances do motorists have this information is being stored appropriately, and not sitting in a Kiewit office somewhere?

And while  the government  will surely scramble to provide us all with some clear, concise and accurate answers, clearly, this is qualifies as more than reason 101 of why Gordon Campbell must go.

( Suffice it to say that this will also begin an entirely new list for Kevin Falcon, who was also minister in charge of the Port Mann bridge debacle. And how about we toss in Shirley Bond, the new minister as well, for she had to have known about this as well, less confess to ignorance of her own portfolio. Not that we haven’t seen that done before… )

Now, how about some answers to  all of these questions? Any takers ?


I have received a statement from Dave Crebo of the Ministry of Transportation ,and Dave says, unequivacably, that there are NO SHADOW TOLLS ON THE SEA TO SKY HIGHWAY.

Here is his statement:

There are no shadow tolls on the Sea-to-Sky Highway.

As part of the operations and maintenance portion of the contract with the concessionaire, performance measures are in place for such things as lane availability, efficient movement of traffic and safety as measured by accident statistics.

Additionally, these performance measures are monitored and audited by Ministry staff on an ongoing basis. That means if the concessionaire does not meet these standards, then penalties are applied and they don’t earn their full payment.

This helps ensure good value for taxpayers, as outlined in the report Achieving Value for Money Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project available on the Partnerships BC website.

The details of these contracts are also publicly available on the Partnerships BC website. As well the Auditor-General has reviewed and approved both the contract with the concessionaire as well as the value for money report.

I have emailed Dave back for clarification, since this is in direct contradiction to the documents I have now posted – one of which is from a major partner and financer in the s2s group I have posted… and some I have not. I suspect he thought I was bluffing about the internal documents, as this is a complete lie from the provincial government.


*** This story did not end here and in fact , shadow tolls… and ‘shadow fares’ have been included in the contracts of other P3 projects in the province, as part of the availability and performance payments made from the province to the private partner. This is part of what makes these deals so lucrative that the sea to sky highway has in fact since been sold to a new investment fund that is happily giving a safe and secure rate of return to their investors.

The following links should be read in sequence, as each expands on this entire story as it developed.

It went on to get coverage from the Globe and Mail:

Macquaries stake in the project was flipped to a new partner:


Corruption is complete authority plus total monopoly, minus transparency.

corrupt [kuh-ruhpt]

–adjective 1. guilty of dishonest practices, as bribery; lacking integrity; crooked: a corrupt judge.

2. debased in character; depraved; perverted; wicked; evil: a corrupt society.

3. made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text.

4. infected; tainted.

5. decayed; putrid.


October 18th is already a date that is emblazoned in my mind, for personal reasons, yet in an odd quirk of serendipity, this year it was also the day everyone appeared, grandly dressed and ready to be surprised, to hear the allegedly shocking admission of guilt by the accused in the Basi-Virk trial.

I’ll be honest.When I read the email from a friend in the MSM yesterday morning, I was so momentarily taken aback by his words that goose-flesh covered my skin, which were immediately replaced by a feeling of intense heat. Enraged, I tossed my pen across the room.

While clearly we all knew this could happen, might happen, I hoped beyond hope that these two men would stand firm in their NOW,  apparently not-so-firm convictions of innocence,  and assist the public in revealing the truth of the depth of corruption within the BC Liberal government.

It was not to be. There would be no titillating revelations in courtroom 54, there would be no tanked careers, no embarrassing facts of evidence presented before the jury, and by nature, all of you.

The two defendants would appear to be  susceptible to whatever influences came before them to entice or dissuade.One wonders what it would take to change the minds of men who stood firm for 7 years, who defiantly claimed their innocence and repeatedly said they were only acting on the orders of other, higher officials. 7 years of work down the drain, bought and sold in a deal I suspect we will never be party to said details.

All said, I will not linger long on the tragic decision of  Basi and Virk, because in all truth I know much will be continually covered by BC Mary, the Queen of the Bloggers, Bill Tieleman, Ian Reid and Gazeteer, among others. In truth, Basi and Virk are relatively minor, somewhat inconsequential players in a grand game far more superior and powerful than them. There are far bigger fish to fry, and I am quite hungry from an extended absence from this blog. Like setting a night line to catch a ling cod, patience is a virtue, and I set my lines  within the MOT long ago, content to sit and tug occasionally to  see what appeared at the end. I suspect a feast will be in order shortly.

Contrary to what our Premier would say, the sale of BC Rail was riddled with corruption. Inflammatory statement, to be sure, but one I am confidant to stand behind, as are many others. We may not hear what evidence there is to prove this in a courtroom, but certainly now you will continue to read and see evidence presented online, in the courtroom of public opinion. The list of blogs to the left of my site will provide you with many links that will continue to bring this evidence into the public domain, because this story is far from over.

I am by, not an expert on this case and the sale of BC rail, but I have done a fair bit of digging and searching along with fellow bloggers and interested parties. I have read the entirety of Yvette Well’s notebooks, in fact, I still have the contents, in paper, to read with a short, neat glass of scotch at night. Quite damning, I would say, along with the countless emails and messages that show clearly others knew of the tainted bidding process.

But let us move on now, for there is much that the corrupt sale of BC Rail we can learn from, in fact, about corruption itself, and about corruption within the BC Liberal government. Indeed, from what I have seen, it is the mere tip of the proverbial iceberg, and only gives a glimpse to the depth of the rot within several ministries.

Here in Canada, Quebec generally comes first to mind when conversation about government corruption begins. True enough,Quebec – and Montreal in particular has been long fighting a seemingly losing battle against government corruption and  allegations of organized crime involvement in public projects. In speaking with a french friend of mine recently, he marvelled that in Quebec, nearly every Liberal candidate faced allegations of corruption in some manner –  yet was still elected!

The question to be asked then, is Quebec  really so unique? Is it truly possible that it is the only government  that has been infiltrated, manipulated by organized crime?

For one to think that Quebec is the only province to face such scandal or that it is unique in its rampant government corruption, is foolhardy. Funny enough, this statement brings us right back to the Basi- Virk trial, which initially began with an investigation into organised crime that had allegedly infiltrated the legislature. A statement, that seen in archived video last night on the news, was quickly recanted shortly after it was made. ( reminds me of the swift handling of the  CSIS allegations of Chinese control on BC politicians made earlier this year)

” Nope, not true, certainly not. We did not mean to infer this, blah, blah, PR crisis mode , blah, blah ”

Remarkable, is it not, that such important officers and officials could possibly make such unequivocal statements, on television no less, and then try saying it was an error…

No, I can unequivocably state that no longer does Quebec hold the sole reign on corruption… but I  do think it is safe to say that they simply have more journalists,editors and publishers willing to explore and expose it. Rarely have I read an article on the topic here in BC,  and if there is one bit of necessary writing that I could direct anyone to, it would be this Macleans article titled:

How B.C. became a world crime superpower – Forget forestry or fishing. B.C.’s big, multi-billion-dollar growth industry is crime. And business is booming…

Written by  Jason Kirby and Nancy Mcdonald in 2008, it is a 6 page, detailed look at organized crime in BC, and why the province has become such a player in what used to be an eastern provincial industry. Quotes:

According to police, 40 per cent of all murders in the Lower Mainland are now tied to organized crime. For Vancouver’s law-abiding citizens, the increasingly brazen public executions near schools and in posh neighbourhoods have gotten too close for comfort…

But the carnage on the streets is only the most obvious sign organized crime has infiltrated everyday life…

Things get far murkier once you start to examine the fuzzy line between B.C.’s criminal and legitimate economies. One car dealer in Vancouver told the National Post a few years ago that a quarter of his business involved selling luxury cars for cash to those involved in the drug trade…

… number of factors help explain why B.C. has become such a hotbed of criminal activity. The U.S. border is just minutes from Metro Vancouver, offering ready access to that market. And the province’s ports are among the busiest in the world. Last year the RCMP told the Senate committee on national security and defence that Indo-Canadian and Asian gangs, as well as the Hells Angels, were very active at the Port of Vancouver. Due to limited resources police warned they could only tackle 30 per cent of the criminal activity taking place on the docks. When a new deepwater port opened last year in Prince Rupert, business leaders cheered because it would shave days off the trip between Asia and the eastern U.S. So did the criminals.

B.C. hasn’t grasped publicly the size and the effect the Pacific Gateway program is going to have on B.C. and North America,” says Kiloh. “The projections about the depth of crime that’s going to come just from that are absolutely staggering.” ( highlighted by myself)

…As organized crime flexes its muscles in the province, many fear the inevitable outcome will be corruption on a massive scale. “There has to be people on the take across the spectrum,” says Robert Gordon, head of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. “From time to time you see little signals.”

“There’s been no indication Canadian police have been compromised or that politicians or judges have been bought, but it’s hard to imagine these kinds of flows of money without that happening,” says Stephen Easton, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University.

My point exactly. BC  has long been the arrival and departure point for a variety of evils we may rather forget exist in this world. Most of it does has little to do with you or I, unless you happen to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And right now, you may be wondering what this has to do with corruption in government, so let me explain.

In Italy, it is no secret that organized crime finds its way into public projects. Several years ago, Italian police laid charges with respect to allegations of  organized crime to win a bid on a large P3 bridge project over the Strait of Messina. Had it been successful, it likely would have been the largest money-laundering effort in some time. And interestingly enough, there was a direct Canadian connection.

In Quebec, organized crime has dogged the construction industry for years. In fact, Ottawa has just commissioned the first comprehensive study of the problem, despite active protest from provincial and municipal politicians alike.

The federal government has quietly commissioned a study of a Canadian construction industry mired by allegations of political cronyism and infiltration by organized crime.

The move comes after the federal and Quebec governments as well as Montreal’s administration were sideswiped over the past year by stories alleging impropriety in the industry


It also comes after a year in which politicians at all levels have steadfastly stonewalled demands for a public inquiry.

Quebec and Montreal have been saddled with allegations of intimidation, bid-rigging, inflated contracts, construction cartels and organized crime involvement.

Interestingly enough, the article also mentions the RCMP probe into a $9 million government renovation project involving a bankrupt construction firm and a Tory organizer – in Ottawa!

Clearly, not even our nations capital is immune from corruption, but again, is it plausible to think that our British Columbian Liberal administration have been completely immune to insidious influences? I’m not saying conclusively that organized crime or foreign influence is involved in any BC public projects, but what I am saying is that why is no one looking at what is going on here in BC?

After all, corruption comes in many forms, and not just in terms of the presence of organized crime.

There can be collusion and conspiracy,  or bid-rigging, construction cartels, and  corporate nepotism which is basically a form of favouritism to one particular company based on personal friendship or business relationships.

And please don’t forget the exchange of  large political donations for contracts, which technically is hard to prove in a court of law without precise supporting documentation and evidence, but happens frequently nonetheless. Buying influence through donations is no less corrupt than anything else, although it seems to be a completely acceptable practice, although often denied as  merely ” coincidental “.

The construction industry  in B.C. is replete with massive,public projects undertaken since the Liberals came into power, many of which I have scrutinized in detail following allegations made to myself of ongoing  ” irregular bidding practices “, both of which would appear to be supported by my research into cases in which the MOT has been involved.

However, since the ministries involved fight disclosure of bid-related information tooth and nail, no one has yet  been able to delve into the fine details of some of the most dubious projects, such as the Port Mann bridge. 

Information that is released on Freedom of information requests is often heavily redacted and provides little if any understanding, and this is alarming for several reasons. Until the public at large knows the details of what happened, why it happened, and the terms of the agreement, how can we be assured of any accountability for our tax dollars?

Secrecy and lack of transparency in government are two cornerstones that pave the way for corruption to sprout and blossom, as evidenced in the landmark case of Tercon vs. British Columbia and MOT.  This important case I uncovered  and wrote about extensively earlier this year, is quite indicative to how the province does business – corruptly, and in this case, fraudulently and with rife deception.

Rogue civil servants indeed – ha! In the case of Tercon, the key players went onto long and lucrative careers within the BC government and the private sector –  the reaping the benefits of obtaining government contracts in what I believe are classic examples of corporate nepotism within the BC Liberal government.  If you have not, you must read the above link and the backgrounders, which demonstrates exactly how those ” rogue civil servants”  get their start.

Another aspect of how the BC Liberals like to demonstrate their lack of regard for transparency ( one of those cornerstones of corruption)  is how they have increasing taken such an interest in public-private partnerships (P3’s), even in an economy where  using the P3 model has delivered higher costs and additional risks, such as the Port Mann Bridge fiasco.

Last year, a damning report was released that confirmed the legitimate concerns surrounding the P3 model preferred and endorsed by Campbell  and his team of Liberals,for BC’s largest projects:

VANCOUVER-In a report released today, B.C.’s most respected forensic accountant, Ron Parks, along with his colleague Rosanne Terhart, find that public private partnerships (P3s) are costly for taxpayers.

They also find a consistent pro-privatization bias in the way that the B.C. government (through Partnerships BC) compares costs when assessing major projects. On top of this, the B.C. government is routinely denying access to critical information, which limits the public’s ability to know that its interests are protected on P3 projects.

Parks and Terhart evaluated four P3 projects: the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre, the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement, the Academic Ambulatory Care Centre (Diamond Centre) and the Canada Line. Based on this review, they find that developing the projects as P3s is more expensive than if they were done publicly.

In the case of the Diamond Centre – they report that the actual nominal cost of a P3 was more than double that of a publicly procured project.

Secretive, biased and expensive. Pretty strong words when used in reference to the way a government who claims to be open and transparent is doing business, and extremely relevant to keep in mind when watching Premier Campbell smugly maligning Basi and Virk on TV and in print as rogue civil servants who acted on their own.

And important to keep in mind when thinking of the large, most often international corporations that are getting our public works projects.  If one digs a little deeper, one often finds information like this :

German contractor Hochtief A.G., ranked the world’s largest contractor based on revenue outside its home country, is considering a Sept. 16 buyout offer from Madrid-based construction giant Grupo ACS. The Spanish firm, which is Hochtief’s largest shareholder with a nearly 30% stake, has offered $72.70 per share for the remaining shares, valued at $3.5 billion. Hochtief owns two U.S. contractors, Turner Construction Co., New York City, and Flatiron Construction Corp., Longmont, Colo. ACS acquired 25.1% of Hochtief for $1.65 billion in 2007. ACS, which also owns Spanish contractor Dragados, has acquired U.S. contractors Schiavone Construction, John Picone and Pulice

( Again, I am certainly not saying organized crime is involved with ACS or the SFPR, however it is interesting, if nothing else, to note even the most remote connections of two companies that makes up part of the Fraser Transportation Group.  )

I believe we have a come to a point in British Columbia, where the general public is finally, genuinely aware of the implications of electing officials without due care and regard.  Of the  further implications of turning a blind eye in acceptance without asking questions and demanding answers. In the long run, I doubt they will draw any distinction between the various types or level of corruption, because it is what we have come to expect from public officials and politicians and we have allowed it to continue for so long.

In my opinion, corruption is corruption no matter how you serve it up, and it is the continued and marked absence of appropriate and assured accountability that is at the root of a majority of the scandals and allegations confronted by the BC liberals.  It would appear to be, that the more powerful one in within this administration, the less accountable they are required to be , and premier Campbell sets the standard by far.

As long as the government  fails to create and adhere to an accountability model that really works, as long as they police themselves with no regard to public transparency, we will have corruption to various degrees, at all levels of government.

What is particularly disturbing to me, is that the Campbell government has repeatedly and actively sought to block fact-finding inquiries made by those wishing to uncover and reveal the abuses of power that have occurred in the 10 years of Campbell’s ‘Golden Decade’  – as we just witnessed by Campbell’s refusal to initiate a public inquiry into the BC Rail sale. ( I often wonder if Campbell calls it the Golden decade because so many of his colleagues and friends lined their pockets immensely while he has ruled the province!)

Sadly, corruption is as human as the desire for love. There will be no remedy to any of it unless someone consistently and forcefully challenges both the cynicism of the public, and systematic degradation of our political process and justice system.  Governance for the purpose of  illegitimate and illicit power and dominance is as reprehensible as the ideology that begets it – a lesson every political party in this province would do well to take to heart if they want to win over an electorate whose political cynicism is at an all time high.

” The accomplice to the crime of CORRUPTION is frequently our own indifference.”

Bess Myerson

( Now, if you want to read something really, really corrupt, head over to Creekside, where Alison has the details on the gag order Basi and Virk had to sign in order to get that multi-million dollar legal costs reprieve from the government…..  If that isn’t a pay-off of the most corrupt kind,I don’t know what is )

Straight from the horses mouth: Premier Campbell and Huggies Hansen tell it like it was – back in 2008.

Watch this video, and listen carefully. Listen to Gordon Campbell talk about how bad the economy is, and how changes will have to be made. Listen to Colin talk about how if a P3 financer can’t get financing, another company can step in because so many are out there waiting.

Now, this is from 2008. Not at all in line with Campbell’s repeated claims post-election that he had no idea how bad the economy really was.

And Colin has some explaining to do now, doesn’t he?

Because in this video he states the taxpayer will never end up on the hook for any P3 project due to financing, because there are so many other companies out there willing to step in and take over….. which is exactly what I have been saying about the failed P3 Port Mann all along. Why did the taxpayers end up on the hook, if another company could have jumped in with financing?  Stinky, stinky, stinky Colin!!! Have huddle with the premier and get back to me on that, won’t you?

But wait… I have more for you.

FROM THE HORSES MOUTH… those organizations who have been lobbying and pushing for the implementation of the HST… and some advice for Manitobans…lol.  Quite a telling sound bite, no?

And while we are still on the topic of the HST… here is a press clip from Harper on the subject. You have to listen carefully as the clip continues  to add in other press bits on the HST..


Last, but not least, the most under reported story of  August was Gordon Campbell’s trip to California to speak to their Assembly. Powell River Persuader was the first to write about it, and a couple other bloggers mentioned it after he did, but there was very little if any real coverage by the MSM.

 Why is this news? Because his address is no more than outright pandering to his corporate IPP friends – a PR promotion for all those horrific run of the river projects.  

Watch Campbell deliver his address, and then tell me he isn’t trying to sell this province down the river… and watch for a cameo of the most gossiped about woman in BC politics at the very beginning   ;  )