Vaughn Palmer: On mega-projects, not much balance in B.C. Liberal claims of ‘on budget’

I was happy to see Vaughn Palmers column today, because his readership far exceeds mine and this story really needs to be read by all British Columbians. He also gives a tip of the hat to a December 21st blog post I did right before Christmas when the SFPR opened, to which I’ve already thanked him for.  It’s a good read, as he takes a look at how the BC Liberals claims of on budget often mean anything but.

Here is an excerpt:

“VICTORIA — When the provincial and federal governments cut the ribbon on the new $1.264-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road just before Christmas, the accompanying press release declared “SFPR opens on time and on budget.”

It was neither, according to earlier press releases from those same two governments.

Jan. 12, 2009. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then-premier Gordon Campbell met at Fraser Surrey Docks to announce the official start of construction on a 40-kilometre, four-lane highway linking Deltaport and Tsawwassen with the Trans-Canada at the Port Mann Bridge.

The accompanying press release described it as “the $1-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road project.” In calling for bids to build the road, the provincial government had earlier announced: “Construction will begin in 2009 with completion in 2012.”

On that basis, it strikes me that it would be more accurate to say that the road was opened a year late and almost $300 million over-budget. But regular readers of this space will be familiar with the more flexible approach that the B.C. Liberals have taken toward the concept of being on time and on budget….”

Read the rest of Vaughn’s column, here:

And here is my blog post from Dec 21st – note the right before Christmas, under the radar grand opening. And Christy while Christy was no where in sight on this one, a host of other local and provincial politicians cashed in on the photo op…..


*Also coming soon:  the story of the intentional closure of New Jersey bridge lanes to create an intentional gridlock is one that’s very interesting to me, for several reasons… and the clue is right in this link…

I’ll have more on that once I pull out some information that was passed onto me by a trusted source last fall.

BC Liberals pat themselves on the back over SFPR ‘highway’ opening a year late and $464 million over budget

I’ll give the BC Liberals this: they sure know how to crank out a photo-op and they know how to spin a deuce into silk and make it look like they invented it.

Case in point, the grand opening the of much heralded… and criticized… South Fraser Perimeter Road -aka Highway 17 ( the old highway 17 is renamed 17A).

Spin, rinse, repeat.

Yes indeed all the politicians came out to glad hand and pat backs, including Rich Coleman, Peter Fassbender, Barinder Rasode, Todd Stone, Nina Grewal and Kerry-Lynne Findlay.

Remarkably enough, they even managed to tie this project that is over a year late in completion, to Christy Clarks biggest failure to date, the BC Jobs Plan:

“Completing the SFPR was a key goal in the province’s Pacific Gateway Transportation Strategy, which supports the ‘The BC Jobs Plan’ to expand markets for B.C. products and strengthen infrastructure to get goods to market, ensuring B.C is North America’s gateway for Asia-Pacific trade.

The SFPR will generate economic and business opportunities and lead to 7,000 long-term jobs in Delta and Surrey through improved industrial development opportunities along the corridor.”

But what is more ridiculous than claiming that the South Fraser Perimeter Road will lead to 7,000 jobs ( how the Liberals get these numbers no one really knows) , is this this little gem on the press release:


On-time and On-budget?

Some of you will have caught this… and will be laughing, scoffing or otherwise shaking your head in disbelief, but for those of you not privy to the joke, the punchline is “ SFPR opens on-time and on-budget.” This is a Liberal patented tag-line, and is a complete fabrication. They count on very few reporters knowing the full history of this project that was plagued with problems from day 1.

In July  of 2008 when the project was announced and the Requests for Qualifications went out,the press release with it stated construction would start in 2009 and completion was 2012.

In early 2009, the short list of consortiums were issued the Request for Proposals and again, the completion date was stated as 2012.

However, something went wrong between April 2009 and May 2o10, the date of the next press release that announced who the successful bidder was: not only had a major change had been made in the corporate makeup of the winning bidder, but the completion date had suddenly been delayed for an entire year, with no explanation given!

BC Liberal Claim number 1 -South Fraser Perimeter Road on time?  False.

Let’s talk budget now.

In 2006, the  construction budget in future dollars for the SFPR was estimated at approx.  $700 million dollars.

However, rising costs of land expropriations drove that cost far higher ( a very disgusting but routine story in itself when it comes to Ministry of Transportation projects, see my end links for how the MOT conducts its land deals…), and the Liberals announced that an additional ‘contingency’ was set for $300,000. ( what budget doesn’t include a contingency, I don’t know..but that’s how the Libs work)

In fact, in August of 2010, it was announced that the ministry had increased the budget by $37 million found in savings to other capital projects… never saying where those savings had come from:

*Total cost of construction upon announcement: $700-800 million dollars (  it depends on which press release you look at- it changes)

*Total cost being heralded by politicians today? $1.26 billion dollars. ( this figure also varies depending on past press reports)

*Total actual cost overruns according to my calculations ?  approx. $264 million – or around a 40-45% increase

BC Liberal Claim number 2- South Fraser Perimeter Road on Budget? False

What else the BC Liberals press release didn’t tell the public

Beyond the fallacy that this project was on time and on budget, the press release failed to mention a number of other items. The project was plagued by controversy from the beginning:

-Even losing bidders win, when it comes to the BC Government… who hands out million dollar stipends to losing bidders to compensate them for their time and expense. SFPR included.

-Despite the fact it was pushed as a nonstop freeway route where trucks did not have to stop and idle, and despite the massive cost overruns, the project was still downgraded significantly from a highway with no stops, to a highway with lighted intersections… intersections that would not only result in congestion on opening day ( hence the Saturday before Christmas opening), but intersections that will result in safety issues as well.

Now, not only will trucks to the port have to stop and idle, they will be mingling with cars and minvans since the province is now pushing this route as  not only the only free alternative to the tolled Port Mann bridge, but a fast way to the ferries. Unfortunately a lack of clear signage has already resulted in lost motorists, prior to the opening.

– Nor will the Liberals tell you about the Railgate connection to all of it…which is huge. It is not something that has been talked about other than a side story, but is very significant of itself.

– And they certainly left out about how absolutely vital the SFPR is to the shadow plan to industrialize and build homes on the ALR land south of the Fraser…which might explain all the smiley faces in the photo above. This is a must read.

No… the BC Liberals won’t tell you any of that in their feel good, lets all hold hands and sing Kumbaya together press opp. They don’t want you to know they are going to have to rebuild all those intersection a few years from now, and that they could have saved taxpayers a ton of money by doing it now. They don’t want you to know that the safety of the road was questioned before it was completed, as linked to above.

They just want you to drive on the damn road so they have enough road count numbers to justify the construction of the items they chose not to do as costs escalated. They just want to share the momentary joy of having completed one portion of the plan to remove much of the ALR south of the Fraser, to share the momentary joy of getting truck to the port before the expanded Panama Canal takes a portion of our shipping container traffic away.

Fiscal responsibility went out the window long ago. Don’t be surprised when the traffic jams start being reported on the news every day… this new road/aka highway was destined to be a dud before it even opened.

Merry Christmas Todd. I know it’s not the mess you created, but you certainly stepped into it.

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)

Coming soon to some farmland near you… destination retail/entertainment mall and development to the tune of 1.8 million sq.feet.


The Tsawwassen First Nations have signed a deal that will forever change the landscape of South Delta and Tsawwassen. While everyone is still up in arms over the Southlands, they quietly inked a deal last week with two property development corporations to build not one, but two malls- one the comparable to Metropolis at Metrotown.

“It will be the signature shopping centre in the province,” TFN Economic Development Corporation CEO Chris Hartman said in an interview. “A project like this will have a draw much further than the Lower Mainland. You have a significant population on [Vancouver] Island without a facility like this. There’s also significant traffic passing by the site going to BC Ferries. And it will draw people from other parts of the province.”

Hartman said the proposed project -which includes up to 1.8 million square feet of retail, office, entertainment and other uses -would start construction in late 2012, with the first phase opening in 2013 and build out completed by 2014 or 2015.

Hartman said TFN has signed a memorandum of agreement with Ivanhoe Cambridge and the Property Development Group to build the project.

Of course, this would explain why the TFN asked MetroVancouver to upgrade and install new water mains, and why the SFPR has an overpass strategically located to allow access to that area alternatively to the highway.

This is a travesty. A complete and utter travesty that will aid in further development in south Delta  courtesy of the development companies currently buying options on ALR properties faster than you can say Falcon’s Follies. That  area is home to prime farmland that should have been protected and preserved for years to come and future generations.

Go back and refresh your memory as to the real purpose of the South Fraser Perimeter Road and how it plays into not only this development, but all development and expansion south of the Fraser.

Falcon’s Follies: Part 2.

In my previous post I stated that the Gateway initiative and the construction of the SFPR,  were crucial to opening up land development south of the Fraser.  The new mandate given to BC Rail by former transportation minister Kevin Falcon is certainly assisting this venture.

There have been numerous land deals that have taken place since 2005 that are worthy of a second look – land deals that took place along the very contentious P3 project, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, land swaps that occurred with the Tsawwassen First Nations Treaty and prior agreements, and land purchases made by numbered companies owned by BC Rail.

 These land purchases are something many people have known about for years. To be sure, every time a project is on the books, land speculators are scratching at the door, waiting to make millions. Nonetheless, the facts remain to leave us a provocative record of events and transactions, that – depending on who you ask, demonstrate  either a wonderful bit of luck and good timing … or a stunning example of what is often the very profitable side to government land expropriations and public projects.

If you had been a visitor in the legislature on May 30th, 2007, afternoon sitting, you likely would have been listening to this exchange between Kevin Falcon and Guy Gentner :

G. Gentner: Mr. Speaker, 40 percent of the cost of the $1.1 billion South Fraser perimeter road is allocated towards land acquisition, making it the largest purchase of land for any highway project in the history of B.C. For speculators, there’s a lot of money to be made here.
Can the Minister of Transportation explain how it is that a numbered company paid $1.7 million for contaminated industrial land at 7590 80th Avenue in Delta on February 25, 2004, and flipped it less than a year later — only weeks before the announcement of the South Fraser perimeter road route selection — for $3.6 million?
Hon. K. Falcon: I know it doesn’t take long for those members opposite to climb up the grassy knoll and discover conspiracies everywhere they look. I think, again, that if the member would do his homework, the member would know that in 2004 that was a property that was actually put into foreclosure. That was the value assigned to that property at foreclosure. That is a different value than market value. The member should know that.
In fact, there is a 1998 appraisal report on that same property valuing it at $3 million. We paid $3.6 million through the Gateway project. That was based on an independently provided market assessment.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
The member has a supplemental.
G. Gentner: Well, we know the government paid $600,000 more than the market value. There’s no question there.
G. Gentner: Yes, it did.
Okay. Let’s see. The residents with million-dollar vistas overlooking the Fraser are still awaiting settlement. Their lives are on hold, and yet speculators come in and buy and flip. Hmm, isn’t that interesting?
There’s concern in my community that there is another Gaglardi road deal in the making, where family and friends made oodles of money because of inside knowledge — buying land, knowing where a road was to be built. Can the minister assure this House that something similar is not happening with B.C.’s largest highway land acquisition?
Hon. K. Falcon: I think the member should be careful how he makes those kinds of allegations or casts aspersions, because the fact of the matter is that this is a road whose general route has been talked about and known for almost 20 years. It’s been part of a discussion with the local municipalities for a good six years under this government. There’s been no secrecy about where this route is going to be.
I can tell the member opposite — and the member should know — that I have full confidence in the professional public servants that are overseeing the property acquisition. Before acquiring any properties, they receive independently provided market assessments, market appraisals on those properties, and they negotiate fair market purchase prices.
When the member wants to talk about flips and kind of make all of those kinds of insinuations…. You’d better do your homework and make sure that’s actually the case. In this case, I believe that our employees acted totally appropriately.
Mr. Speaker: Members.

This is from Official Report of DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY(Hansard)WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2007, Afternoon Sitting,Volume 22, Number 1,ORAL question pages 8357 -8360

Let’s work our way back to the specific transaction that prompted this exchange, more than two years after the fact that it was uncovered by a few concerned citizens who were fighting for their homes, their neighbourhoods, and a very vital part of the ecosystem.

 Jeffrey Merrick is a partner with Blakes, Cassells, and Graydon law firm, here in Vancouver. By clicking on the link above, one can clearly see that in the areas of P3’s and infrastructure, he is highly esteemed and his reputation precedes himself. To be sure, he has been part of the Sea to Sky deal representing the concessionaire and Macquarie, even throughout the recent sale of their share in the Sea to Sky project.

Fact: On February 16th, 2004, the decision to extend the South Fraser Perimeter Road and add a western section from the Alex Fraser Bridge to Deltaport was announced.

 Fact: On February 24th , 2004, a numbered company –606306 BC Ltd. acquired the property at 7590 80th street in Delta for $ 1.7 million dollars. Jeffrey Merrick was the sole director, president and secretary listed on the company search.

Fact: On January 1st, 2005, Mr. Merrick’s numbered company,606306 BC Ltd,amalgamated with Quick Assets Inc.

 Quick Assets Inc. listed four directors at the time: David Bush, John Cosulich, Sari Fleming and Anne Stewart, who also happens to be a partner with the same law firm as Jeffrey Merrick : Blakes Cassels and Graydon.

Anne Stewart has a long and prestigious history working side by side with the Ministry of Transportation on P3 projects- the Canada RAV line, the Sea to sky Highway, the Golden Ears Bridge, and Gateway/Port Mann. She is noted in the who’s who in world leading public procurement lawyers, among other accolades in the bio linked to in her name above.

 Anne Stewart has also acted as legal counsel for the Cosulich Group, the parent company to Quick Assets Inc. and is listed on their site above as having done so since 1975. ( FYI- quick assets , in investing terms, are defined as those which can be converted to cash quickly, making this a rather clever company name)

Fact: On January 24th, 2005, just a few weeks after the numbered company listing Jeffrey Merrick as sole director amalgamated with Quick Assets Inc., that company sold the property in question at 7590 80th street to the B.C Transportation Authority for $ 3.6 million dollars – a profit of $ 1.9 million dollars , a handsome figure to be sure.

On January 31st, 2006, former transportation minister Kevin Falcon and premier Gordon Campbell announced and released the Gateway Program Definition Report Summary, which detailed the timeline of Gateway related projects. The SFPR is slated to undergo a pre-design  public consultation period in 2006,with detailed design consultation not indicated until 2008. ( pg15)

 The property at 7590 80th street is slated to be used as an intersection for the South Fraser Perimeter road. Zoned as industrial/extraction -peat extraction,the market value of the land at the time likely should have been comparatively lower than other industrial lands, considering the likelihood of contamination. ( pdf) The property is also part of a water mound crucial to the viability of Burns Bog, which the provincial government  has signed a covenant to protect. Taylor Ventures Ltd. (Athropa Landfill), 7590, 7664 80th Street

The Athopa Landfill site is located at 7590, 7664 80th Street. Athopa Development Co. Ltd. formerly operated the site, and it accepted commercial and industrial fill between 1994 and 1998 under a permit provided by the Corporation of Delta. In 1995 Taylor Ventures purchased the site. The site is currently under receivership and is being managed through Coopers & Lybrand Ltd. The site registry indicates that the 7664 80th Street site has been determined not to be a contaminated site and that 7590 80th Street site is suspected of containing petroleum hydrocarbons and is under assessment.

A group of concerned citizens started asking questions, doing searches on this property and many others along the proposed route.

What they found raised some eyebrows and leads us back to lawyers  to the numbered company listing Jeffrey Merrick and  Quick Assets, which listed Anne Stewart as directors.

Anne Stewart, who has so often worked closely with the Ministry of Transportation on a variety of P3 projects, was clearly listed as a Director of Quick Assets Inc., the company who made such a handsome profit on the property acquired by Jeffrey Merricks numbered company. To be fair, lawyers are often listed as the only directors on a numbered company,when acting on instruction from clients who perhaps wish to remain unknown. As such, usually the lawyer’s office is listed as the address for the corporate records. This certainly is plausible in the case of Merrick and Stewart both appearing as directors on seperate companies.

Cosulich group, the parent company to Quick Assets inc,  has a variety of businesses under their banner, including shipping container companies that provide off dock services to shipping companies at Deltaport and the Vancouver port. Kozul Holdings Inc. and Delta Container ( Delco) are among the companies listed, as is Quick Assets Inc.,which is described as maintaining “a diverse portfolio of investments.”

It should be noted, Delta Containers inc / Kozul holdings is the owner of the property adjacent ( north side) to the property sold, which is still currently stacked with empty cargo  shipping containers.

In the Hansard debate, Kevin Falcon said Mr. Merrick acquired the property via a foreclosure, hence the low purchase price.  Then transportation minister Kevin Falcon, stated the government purchased the property at market value, as are most expropriations. Fair enough, but the property was still purchased for far more than it comparatively should have been considering the zoning and condition of the land. Based on a previous market valuation, at least $600,00 more, by some estimates.

Because both Mr.Jeffrey Merrick and Ms. Anne Stewart appeared as directors on companies involved in the  acquisition and subsequent sale of the land along the SFPR route, more questions arose as to whether or not this constituted a real or perceived conflict of interest – whether or not they were real principals or acting on the direction of an unknown client.

 Specifically, because both lawyers worked in the same firm, both worked directly with the government and Ministry of Transportation, on various P3 projects ( including Gateway, in the case of Anne Stewart)  and both appeared as directors who may  or may not have benefitted directly from this land deal,  the question arose whether this deal was the result of any access to inside ministry or client information that would not have been specifically or  widely available to other  residential property owners affected along the project route. And if they were acting on the instructions of a client who wished to remain unknown, how would that client have known specifically what was planned for this property at a time when even pre-design public consultations were beginning?

It is certainly true that although the project was widely talked about with municipalities etc prior to the above date, and residents had been told the government planned to ram through the Gateway megaproject in general, very few, if any, residential property owners had been informed as to specific information on the South Fraser Perimeter road and their homes prior to this date. In fact, as of 2007, many property owners were still in the dark as to what compensation they would get, how they would be affected and other pressing details. This short video highlights that lack of specific information bothering residents of the area, who had been living in limbo for some time.

It is a fact that it remained  such a concern, that one person,Donna Passmore, filed a request with the law society to look into the concerns concerning a potential conflict of interest of these two lawyers with regards to this land purchase and subsequent sale in May of 2007. In October of that same year, the law society closed the file and determined that there was no basis for the allegations.

Anne Stewart now sits on the Ethics Committee of the law society of British Columbia and the property is under construction for the South Fraser Perimeter Road. You can view all the documents related to this sale here:

  There was a second SFPR property sold to the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority for a quick profit of  approximately 2 million at the same time as the 80th Street property.  The second property is at 7672 Progress Way. Ralph A. May, was the owner of the property under his company, Agri Management.  He owns an ALR property of 144.8 acres.  On October 16, 2002 he was permitted by the ALC to rezone 4.9 acres of the property for industrial use.  Then the property was added to 3 acres of Delta’s road allowance to form a new 7.48 – acre parcel.  Agri Management Corporation (Ralph May) sold the property to 652194 B.C. Ltd for $1,775,000 in March, 2004.  Then the numbered company sold it to the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority for $3,880,000 10 months later. You can see the relevent documents here:

Onto the Beedie Group, who are well-known developers south of the Fraser, and CHUM. In 2007, the Beedie Group purchased a property adjacent to the South Fraser Perimeter Road making for easy access to an industrial park. The property was purchased from CHUM for approximately 28$ million around the time of the takeover by CTV Globemedia. You can see more details here: 

Look for more on Beedie from fellow blogger Norman Farrell shortly, and of course, Ryan Beedie, president of the Beedie Group is one of Falcon’s biggest supporters, as detailed in this video on the Falcon20/20 site.

There are other land deals along the SFPR that are currently being researched and documented, and brought to the public in a short while, so let’s move onto the biggest land swap and removal of ALR lands that occurred with the Tsawwassen First Nations Treaty.

The agreements made prior to the treaty being signed, as well as the treaty, have been called by some one of the provinces biggest schemes to get ALR land for the proposed Deltaport expansion. The driving force behind all of it, of course, being Falcon’s pet project and so often trumpeted leadership selling points, that Asia-Pacific Gateway initiative that brought us the SFPR, the new mandate he thrust onto BC rail and a whole lot of questionable moves on the part of the government he is a part of.

The Final Treaty for the Tsawwassen First Nation, which was ratified July 25, 2007, came with a large amount of protest from both citizens of Delta, conservationists and others who could clearly see the writing on the wall. -( this is a must read link, short and very pointed by Rafe Mair) In the end, there is no shorter way to say it other than the government got all the land they needed from the TFN, over two thousand acres of crown waterfront needed for proposed port expansion… and gave the TFN over one thousand acres of ALR- along with some cash and other incentives in return. It can’t be stressed enough how many TFN band members felt about this treaty and the land exchange, and to this day it stands as a sore point for many who felt band leaders sold them out. You can have a look at what happened prior to this treaty signing, here:

Of course, as detailed in my previous post, the TFN have plans in the works for retail centre – sources tell me they are looking at big box stores a la Walmart style, and industrial parks to the north near the port. A lot of land development on some of the finest farmland around.

Which leads me to the last piece of the land development puzzle, BC rail  and their land acquisitions.

As shown in the previous post, part of BC Rails new mandate was to acquire “strategic” properties for possible future port expansion. They started approaching farmers and landowners back in 2007, although BC rail liked to say the people came to them. And yes, it was mentioned that the railway still held the power of expropriation, and of course they still do. Which is vitally important to remember.

In 2007 BC rail applied to the ALR to have some land removed  for a 50 foot right of way – a copy of that application is here :

They were asking to purchase a strip of land approximately 60 m adjacent to the rail line and another strip next to another portion of the line to provide road access to its rail operations if the SFPR construction cut off the existing service road.

In 2008, after the appropriate processes were undertaken, the ALR replied with a conditional approval, which you can read here:

The land acquisitions went ahead as per the Property Identification Numbers ( PID’s)  listed on the application.

However,  two numbered companies went on to buy more land, in the area where BC Rail was once considering building that rail yard talked about in the previous post. A rail yard the railway was not eager to talk about and one that former Liberal MLA Val Roddick actually stated was not going to happen – that it was off the books.

In fact, the alleged rail yard was not even mentioned in the environmental assessments for the Deltaport expansion/third berth, back in 2007 :

 “All of the rail improvements will be constructed within B.C. Rail’s property on the Roberts Bank causeway and within their existing right-of-way,” the Deltaport Third Berth Project assessment application states.

The absence of any details on a rail yard in the environmental assessment application worries politicians because the document was used by provincial and federal ministers to assess the impact of the overall project. 

 And then all was quiet. Or so it seemed.

Quietly, and without much notice, two numbered companies were making land purchases in the ALR, in an area close to the BC rail line. Large properties, farmland fertile and productive. Here are three separate packages of land title documents – the important thing to note is the numbered company on each.

These three land titles alone equal approximately 80 acres. The first and the third were purchased by 0839565 BC. Ltd. and the second purchased by 0838465 BC Ltd.

Both numbered companies have listed addresses of #600- 221 West Esplanade, North Vancouver… which happens to be the address for none other than BC Rail Company.

Could these perhaps be some ” strategic land acquisitions” for future port expansion ? Does the government make a habit of buying land under numbered companies?

I have confirmed with Richard Myhill Jones of BCR properties that the numbered companies are in fact, owned by BCR properties, a subsidiary of BC rail.

I also confirmed that the properties ” were considered strategic land acquisitions for future port expansion at the time. ” Just BC rail doing what they were ordered to do in the new mandate given to them by former transportation minister Kevin Falcon.

 Makes you wonder what current transportation minister Shirley Bond knows about this.  I confirmed with the ALR this morning that there have been no further applications from BC rail with regards to that land and that these lands are still currently in the ALR. But for how long, no one knows.And for what purpose as of yet, no one knows. Will the rail yard happen, and is this what these lands are for?

I am left with far more questions than I am answers following this post. Do the early land deals from 2005 constitute part of the announced project cost?

Is the government hiding the true cost of public projects by buying land prior to environmental assessments and approvals?

While it may not be illegal for lawyers who are actively involved in government business  and assist other clients in buying land along said projects, is it right? Who is policing this and is this happening on other projects?

What was the real reason behind the downgrades for the SFPR, and how do they relate to these land deals?

And why is BC rail, a company that was to be wound down and assets sold because it was such a burden to the province, quietly given a new mandate that seems to be a key reasoning behind all of this – from the land deals to the port expansion to Gateway and the SFPR? 

And most curious of all, why is it using numbered companies to buy prime farm land?

Between well-connected land speculators and the highly questionable way government does business in all of these deals, one thing is clear. Someone has some explaining to do.

Perhaps we could start with the man who wishes to be premier.


Falcon’s follies: Gateway,SFPR and the Railgate connection.

It was a very sunny day in September 2006, when Premier Gordon Campbell arrived for the grand opening of Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus, smack dab in the heart of Whalley. Despite the demands of his busy schedule, Campbell did make time to sit with local reporter, Tom Zytaruk… and what a revealing interview it was, indeed.

Campbell, in town to open the SFU campus on Friday, said his government is concentrating on building up this side of the river to reduce the need for commuting to Vancouver.

” It’s building a critical mass of urban commercial cultural activities here.” he said. ” There is a perception that everyone is going from here( Surrey) to there ( Vancouver). This is a perception founded in 1982. In reality, people are coming from there to here.”

 The massive Gateway  project aimed at improving the transportation of goods on this side of the Fraser through initiatives like the South Fraser Perimeter Road, says Campbell, isn’t progressing fast enough.

” I’d like it faster,” he said. ” We need to move on it. We’re further behind this year than we were last year. Every year that we wait generates additional costs,additional negative impacts.”

Of particular importance in the above excerpt is that Campbell talks about his governments concentrated efforts to build up development south of the Fraser, and the Gateway project-South Fraser Perimeter Road, in the same breath.

Why this is so important? I’ll tell you.

 Instead of winding down B.C. Rail as was the agenda of government at the time of the “sale”,former Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, went on to give B.C. Rail a new mandate to develop Gateway access to B.C. ports for container rail traffic. Largely unknown to most of the general public until media reports of testimony last year in the Basi-Virk trial addressed the new mandate, what was a revelation to many, was in fact part of what many believe was part of the concentrated effort to  assist in building up development south of the Fraser River.

The  mandate and agenda presented in  the 2005-2007 service plan for BC rail appears as it was intended : the rail line and it’s subsidiaries would dispose of the bulk of its holdings over a period of time, slowing winding down. 

After all, as the government continues to contend, BC rail was laden with debt, a massive burden to the province.

However, the 2007-2009 service plans indicates clearly Falcon’s change of mandate which orders BC rail to get in line and assist the Asia-Pacific Gateway strategy – a must read if there ever was one. In fact, the service plan states the new mandate was introduced early in 2006, which happens  also to be when former transportation minister Kevin Falcon and premier Campbell released the Gateway program information report.  

 It wasn’t until McCullough had Brian Kenning, a former BC rail board member,on the stand in the Basi- Virk trial last fall, that the  majority of the general public first heard about that change of mandate outlined above -the following from an article by Keith Fraser :

The details came out during the third day of cross-examination of former B.C. Rail board member Brian Kenning.

In 2008, five years after the Crown corporation had been largely sold off, a number of B.C. Rail executives flew to other key ports, including Hong Kong and Dubai, said Kenning, who sat on the evaluation committee for the sale of B.C. Rail and headed the audit committee.

“So B.C. Rail, in 2008, a company with [few employees], you’re saying it’s necessary for them to go on airline travel to the Far East, have I got that right?” asked defence lawyer Kevin McCullough.

“No, you haven’t got that right,” said Kenning. “What I’m saying is that we had a new mandate from the government that required us to carry out our job,” said Kenning. “We made the decision that trips to other, key, world-class ports would be helpful to us in carrying out what was a new duty tasked to us by the minister of transportation and the premier’s office.”

McCullough pressed Kenning on why B.C. Rail, which only had a small rail line at Roberts Bank and no trains by this point, would agree to such an expenditure.

“As a board member, did you not think that was absurd?” he said.

“No, it wasn’t absurd,” said Kenning. “I think it makes perfect sense, given what the government asked us to do.”

From Neil Hall:

After BC Rail was sold, Kenning recalled, the plan was to wind down the company after it sold up to $300 million of its real estate holdings, which was expected to take two years.

But he said the transportation minister at the time, Kevin Falcon, gave BC Rail an additional mandate, asking it to develop “gateway access” to ports, so executives flew to Dubai and Hong Kong for discussions with officials.

McCullough asked Kenning if he thought it was absurd that BC Rail, which was by then a small company with no trains, would send executives abroad.

Kenning said the government told the company to look at other ports with high container traffic, and that’s why executives were sent overseas

To be certain, Gateway has always been former transportation minister Kevin Falcon’s baby, as was the SFPR. It is well-known and documented  that Falcon was the driving force to make a concept that had been around for years, a reality,  and in particular he has always been vehement in his defence of the South Fraser Perimeter Road( SFPR). The rationale used to support the project always revolved around the movement of trucks carrying goods and cargo to and from Deltaport.  But to some who knew, BC rails new mandate to support the Gateway initiative and port development through the Roberts Bank Corridor was seemingly at odds with the reasoning to wind it down as a debt-ridden burden to the province.

      Of course, the  key to BC rails new mandate revolved around the rail line to Deltaport-more commonly known as the Roberts Bank Spur line, which was alleged to have been offered to Omnitrax as a consolation prize in exchange for not dropping out of the already tainted bidding process for BC Rail.  

Lawyers Michael Bolton for David Basi and Kevin McCullough for Bob Virk have repeatedly argued in court that their clients’ political superiors ordered the consolation prize be given to OmniTRAX.

The RCMP told B.C. Liberal Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon that the separate privatization process for the port subdivision had to be cancelled because it had been compromised by leaks of confidential government information.

(The article  is a must read, even more relevent now in the entire railgate affair than ever)

Of course, the line was never sold, and there was a very good reason why not. Had Omnitrax actually obtained ownership of that line, the Asia-Pacific Gateway initiative may not have transpired the way it did.

Likely realising the gem before him, former transportation minister Kevin Falcon thus changed the mandate of BC rail, which effectively halted the wind-down as previously planned. Additional staff were even required to facilitate the new activities and goals of BC Rail to support Deltaport and the gateway initiative.

In January of 2007, whispers of BC rail attempting to purchase land were making waves in North Delta coffee shops. Shortly thereafter, it hit the pages of the Delta Optimist that BC rail was making plans for a new rail yard at Roberts Bank. Although the company only owned an option to purchase a 250 foot strip along the rail line, landowners told the paper BC rail came to them asking to purchase large parcels. BC Rail claimed the landowners came to them.

 In August, 2007, B.C. Rail applied to the Agricultural Land Commission for permission to purchase, subdivide, and build an expanded right-of-way along the Deltaport rail line on 52 acres of active farmland.  The expanded right-of-way required the subdivision of nine properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve. 

 The Application (#0-37610) was NOT for exclusions but the right to subdivide farmland and build within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Instead of purchasing just the 52 acres as approved, to date B.C. Rail has spent over 15 million taxpayer dollars to purchase over 150 acres of prime Delta farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve.  Instead of buying portions of properties, B.C. Rail has purchased large parcels between Deltaport and a service road to the south.  

These properties were originally crown properties of the Roberts Bank Backup Lands that were expropriated by the province in 1968 and 1969 for port development. Subsequently they were sold back to the farmers between 8 and 10 years ago for very reasonable prices.

 The rationale given for the expanded right-of-way has always been the planned future Terminal 2 at Roberts Bank. The plans east of Highway 17 are to accommodate the South Fraser Perimeter Road. 

What makes all of this so interesting is that these acres and acres of farmland properties BC Rail has purchased, border  a good portion of the land that was removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve under the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty. The Tsawwassen First Nation received approximately 207 hectares (511 acres) from the ALR as part of the deal.

Some of the that land is going to be industrial development,right beside the BC rail lands. following link shows the TFN is open for business: 

TEDC also issued a Request for Expressions of Interest to find a qualified partner for development of the first 100 acres of TFN Industrial Lands.On the commercial side, TEDC entered into a Letter of Intent to develop a 100 acre commercial site (on the north side of Highway 17) with Property Development Group (PDG). PDG is an experienced shopping centre developer that has developed projects on other First Nation lands.TFN was also featured in a provincial government initiative to connect foreign investment with business opportunities in BC. “

 Something tells me, that we need to go back to that interview with Campbell from 2006, where he stated his government was concentrating on building urban commercial centers south of the Fraser River…

When you consider that the SFPR began as a dedicated highway complete with interchanges to move container trucks to and from the port and it has ended up being nothing more than just another road, and a highly questionable one at that, you have to wonder why Falcon pushed so hard for this project during his time as transportation minister. Certainly,there have proven to be more than a few flaws with the project that Falcon and the Liberals never counted on, and  have had to compensate  for.

The global economic meltdown, for one – the fallout of which is still greatly evident in reduced container traffic through our ports, thus negating the crux of the rationale behind the SFPR. The reason why the project has been downgraded several times (possibly at great risk to drivers, with a major interchange reduced to a light controlled intersection at one crucial juncture ) we have been told is because  current and projected traffic volumes did not merit the build.

Some analysts have been saying all along that Deltaport container traffic is unlikely to ever reach the levels it once was considering the Panama Canal expansion opens only one year after the SFPR –  greatly reducing the likelihood Asia will continue to offload goods here on the west coast. With the expanded canal able to accommodate super-cargo carriers, shippers can make the more cost-effective choice of delivering goods directly to the eastern coast of the USA and Canada via the canal, rather than stopping here and then trucking or sending cargo via rail across the country.

And then let us not forget the very profitable bounty of curious land deals that have been occurring since 2005 along the current route of the SFPR – some long before specific details were known to the general public and even prior to the completion of the environmental assessments.( to be detailed in a future installment)

Add it all up and it appears there are grand plans underway to develop and industrialize hundreds of acres of lands south of Deltaport way, and the BC Rail  spur line and subsequent land aquisitions are central to it.

A note of interest at this point, is that Colliers international did a report on the real estate benefits of the SFPR, even before the project included this southern portion. From that report:

 “Colliers carried out a two phase study with reports provided in November 1999 and January 2000.  Phase I forecast the type, magnitude and rate of land development without and with SFPR.  Key findings and conclusions were:

 SFPR catchment area of South Westminster, Bridgeview, Port Mann and Fraser Heights has approximately 900 acres of vacant industrial land of which 50% is serviced.

 Without the SFPR, it is forecast that approximately 200 acres would be developed for industrial purposes by 2021.  With SFPR all 900 acres would be developed by 2021.  The incremental 700 acres of industrial development can be attributed to enhanced accessibility due to SFPR. 

Colliers conclude that this increase in demand would be reallocation from within Greater Vancouver.”

Both Gateway and the SFPR have been instrumental in allowing both government and developers  relatively unfettered access to one of the last great undeveloped tracts of land yet untouched because it sits in the agricultural land reserve -all through a series of land deals,swaps and treaties no one anticipated before it was too late.

Some say Gateway and the South Fraser Perimeter Road are two of former transportation minister Kevin Falcon’s biggest follies. Considering the number of land titles I hold in my hand from deals related to these projects, I would say they have potential to rival the land deals along the Sea to Sky highway.

Either way, I’d say perhaps Omnitrax really did  lose out on the most expensive consolation prize in history… and former transportation minister-now- liberal-leadership-hopeful Kevin Falcon has more questions to answer, since he was behind the mandate that turned BC rail into a tool for land development in Gateway.

*** BC Rail went onto a long term agreement with Kinder Morgan as a result of issuing this request back in 2006. 

***On April 1st, 2010, BCRC was brought back into government under the BC Transportation Financing Authority,and it’s reporting will be combined with the BCTFA, as reported in the 2009 report, which is good reading.

Excerpts of interest from that report:

During 2009, the Company met all its specific mandated objectives and continued to work toward its mandate of acquiring and holding railway corridors and strategic port lands and making related infrastructure investments to support the Pacific Gateway initiative.

 BCRC’s primary mandate is to support and facilitate the British Columbia Ports Strategy (“BC Ports Strategy”) and Pacific Gateway Strategy, by providing consulting advice, acquiring and holding railway corridor and strategic port lands, and making related infrastructure investments for the Province. – acquisition and retention by BCR Properties Ltd. of key lands which support port terminal operations. BCRC, through its subsidiary BCR Properties Ltd., has also retained ownership of port-related lands,

On April 1 2010, 100% ownership was transferred to the BC Transportation Financing Authority (“BCTFA”). From this date onwards, information reported in the BCRC Annual Report will be consolidated into the BCTFA, resulting in this being the last annual report for BCRC.
– BCRC is principally a holding company with its commercial and business activities conducted through its operating subsidiaryBCR Properties Ltd. (“BCR Properties”). This wholly owned subsidiary operates the Port Subdivision, the 24-mile railway line connecting three major railways (CN Rail, Canadian Pacific Railway, and BNSF Railway) with the port terminals at Roberts Bank. Although it does not operate its own trains on this railway line, BCR Properties maintains the track and manages all train operations, recovering its costs from the three user railways based on their respective share of traffic over the line. BCR Properties also manages the Company’s non-railway real estate portfolio. This includes retention and management of the strategic port-related lands including lands associated with Vancouver Wharves and Squamish Terminals operations.

 Benefit to the Public   The main benefit to the public of BCRC’s operations comes from its role in helping to implement the Shareholder’s BC Ports Strategy and Pacific Gateway Strategy. These strategies will add billions of dollars of economic output and more than 30,000 jobs in British Columbia by 2020 by expanding and increasing the efficiency of the province’s transportation infrastructure. While increasing the province’s capacity to serve export markets, it will also directly benefit British Columbians by improving movement of people and goods, facilitating economic growth, increasing transportation choices and enhancing connections to designated population growth areas. *****



Update to ” Practical politics consists of ignoring facts.” ~ Henry Adams :

To update my earlier post : If you missed the live broadcast today, you can listen to the podcast at the following link:

The broadcast will begin  automatically on the above page -please ensure your speakers are ready.

Guy Gentner is the NDP MLA for Delta North, and you read more about his work in government and the community, HERE.

I invite you to listen in as I join Guy again next week to continue our intriguing discussions next week – Date and time to be posted as confirmed.

“Practical politics consists of ignoring facts.” ~ Henry Adams

I am here, I am alive and no, I am not an undercover operative for a federal investigation…although that did give me a laugh.

The Gateway story is still very much the object of my attention, to the point where every free moment I have had over the past couple of weeks has been dedicated to that story and where it continues to lead me. New revelations have been uncovered and to tell the story incomplete is to do a great injustice to many people, considering recent events.

However, I will be joining  NDP MLA Guy Gentner and independent MLA Vicki Huntington this morning to talk about several issues, one of which includes the glaring connection of Kevin Falcon to Railgate that so many have paid surprisingly little attention to.  This conversation is available to be heard at 

There will be an interim story on Falcon’s connection, and why it gives a totally different perspective to the SFPR, posted later today.

Prelude to coming post : ” Just the facts.”

It’s time to set the stage for the one of two stories I have been working on, and re-post an article from December regarding Kevin Falcon and the Gateway project. It clearly shows the relationship between Falcon, Campbell and the federal Conservatives, ( nothing new about this to most political junkies, but I still find it remarkable how little people consider the federal influence on provincial politics and policy) and will refresh your memory on Gateway and the South Fraser Perimeter Road project. 

The link at the end of this piece to a BC Business article about Kevin Falcon was no longer functional… surprise… but I did locate a new link, replaced it and uploaded the copy to the net just in case.

Is this Falcon really a new generation in leadership…or just another opportunistic crow? The SFPR and Gateway unplugged.

Posted on December 3, 2010 by Laila ( original post located here , with comments )

   No, really, it wasn’t actually my idea at all! Falcon  and his Tory friends came up with the whole Gateway thing right after I appointed him! ”

  ” He, he, he… I did, didn’t I? And everyone though that was your baby… he, he, he…”

One wonders when looking at Campbell and Falcon, if it could be by  sheer coincidence  only that the younger politician seems to have modelled himself after the older. Swap Kevin’s gelled, ever-changing shades of brown for the silver coif of Campbell, and they look remarkably similar. Seriously – imagine Falcon in 15 years ! ( he is older than most think – late 40′s )  However, physical attributes aside, it is the similarity of ramming projects and policy through without regard to anything else, that bothers me most about Kevin Falcon.

 He is well-known for his forceful manner of getting things done, but in my opinion, these are not always things that need to be done, or  should be done the way that Falcon dictates. Extensive research on the Sea to Sky highway shadow tolls, and the project in general has proved this to be true, as has evidence uncovered by my continuing investigations into other projects. (  future stories to come) His signature  and approval is on many, many documents that may come back to haunt him during his leadership bid.

Take for example, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, which is part of the very contentious Pacific Gateway initiative Falcon mentioned in his leadership bid press conference.

In 2005, Stephen Harper announced the Pacific Gateway Strategy, one of the most expensive and ambitious undertakings that centres around British Columbia’s proximity to Asia – China specifically – and the trade routes and transportation hubs we have along our coastline. Taking advantage of this link to China has been a huge project for the BC Liberal and Harper, with MLAs and MP’s travelling several times to China on trade missions to develop and foster business relationships.

 Enter the BC governments Gateway Program, which the government often tries to emphasize is  more about people and moving them around, than it is about moving goods and making money. Truth is, it is all about making money.  The funny thing is that  most of these projects never got the get-go until Kevin Falcon came onto the scene, and consequently signed a memorandum of understanding with Gordon Campbell, Stephen Harper, and David Emerson, accessible here in PDF format.*  PDF counts as five words ; )  Canada-BC-MOU . Gateway has been Falcon’s baby since day 1, and he is guaranteed to follow it through with this same forceful manner of leadership that may have been the hallmark of Campbell’s demise.

The only problem with this big plan of Falcon’s was that much of it was a public relations nightmare – and for good reason. The South Fraser Perimeter Road, which is going to move along the Fraser River in parts of Surrey and Delta, will run from the Port Mann to Deltaport, cutting through residential neighbourhoods with schools, and cutting across part of Burns Bog before moving across some of the most fertile farmland this country has to offer.

 It has been the subject of numerous protests over the last couple of years, with civil disobedience and now a legal battle has begun because the Burns Bog Conservation Society  filed a lawsuit against both the federal and provincial governments for violating the conservation covenant to protect Burns Bog. My wholehearted support is behind this venture, because the South Fraser Perimeter Road  is the wrong project, for the wrong reasons, at entirely the wrong time.

It really made me wonder what would make the BC Liberals move ahead with a project like this,considering all the environmental and economic issues plaguing this project. My earlier reports of significant scope changes to the project, based on information from inside sources earlier, was recently confirmed in the news. Not just any changes, but changes that are still extremely worrying to Delta staff and councillors, as well as MLA Vicki Huntingdon because not only will  the changes create a traffic nightmare, but also a very real safety issue for all drivers on the road.

Originally announced to be a swift moving, mainly truck traffic route with overpasses and interchanges to keep traffic moving, some of those have plans have been scrapped in favor of street light controlled intersections. The move was not a financial one, the government claims, but one based on traffic forecasts where the improvements can be made many years down the road…

All of this came after there had  already been a major change to the bidders during the bidding process, and the project budget was increased before signing in favour of what some may call environmental sucking up. I would also be remiss to  mention the very large drop in trade with China with the economy over the last couple of years, one that has been slow to recover with China’s trade policies.

Toss in the soon to open Panama Canal Expansion… (see ** below) well, why would someone send freight to Vancouver, and then truck it , or send it by rail across the country at great cost when you can ship it right through the newly widened canal and right back up the east coast ? Hmm? Yes, that’s right, Mr. Falcon, you have nothing to say about that, do you?

**( the above story link was fine last night at the time of posting this story. Within one hour I received messages from readers stating that the link was eaten and the story no longer accessible. I luckily have a copy of that story, that you can read – and should read – here:

You see where I am going with this?

Even to the average person, one would wonder why a road that was billed to take container trucks off of residential streets is being built when the global economy has taken such a dive. Even today, stories are coming out that we are about to enter the second wave of recession with the recent developments in Ireland and other countries. Even banks that do global financing, as with the Sea to Sky highway financiers, are still taking hits. ( what the impact of these foreign banks troubles has on our foreign financed P3 projects is, is still unknown- that is another future story)

But wait, there is more to make you question this project if what I have said has not already made you scrunch your brows in confusion.

What if the government itself, as well as many agencies and organizations, felt that trucking was not the best way to move containers from ship to distributor? What if there was a way  that could take trucks off the road almost completely, or a very good proportion of them anyways?

What about Short Sea Shipping?  Pure and simple, this involves placing freight containers from cargo ships onto barges instead of trucks, and pulling them via tug boats up the Fraser river to destination of choice. Not a new concept by far, and one recognized by the ports, the government and the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council as being both a viable and realistic alternative. According to some reports I have come across, there have even been investors ready to invest money into new facilities along the waterfront to receive the barged cargo.

The following confidential document is from 2007, and was produced by an organization called the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council. The brainchild of the federal government, it’s job would appear to be to study these Gateway issues and dictate how things are done, or should be done, in their opinion.  ( PDF format) gatewayvision

Page 16 details what would seem to be extraordinary advantages to container trucking, which would make one think the government would have been all over this – if it was indeed, acting in the best interests of the public. It openly states that moving cargo via this method would take a good percentage of trucks off the road, a win- win situation for all.

So intent have been Falcon and the stakeholders behind the Gateway Council to facilitate the Gateway Vision of 203o,  National Public Relations was hired to conduct extensive research with focus groups across the lower mainland to figure out which words to use to sell this Gateway plan, and which words and phrases to avoid! Maybe it’s just me, but if this vision is such a great idea, why does it need to be” sold” to the people of Greater Vancouver?

For example, easy to sell words  include: prosperity,mobility, future. Harder to sell words are:environment, sustainability, infrastructure. And words that are a firm RED highlighted STOP NEVER USE ?  Expansion and congestion.

 Take a look, again, in PDF format which allows you to see the entire  84 page document for it’s more than a little condescending manner of looking at the citizens it wishes to push this program on.  : GatewayCon

Now, let’s sum it all up on the South Fraser Perimeter Road. It is, without a doubt, an environmental NO-GO. The federal and provincial governments planned this route through the best farmland and the most sensitive ecological areas in the province. Container traffic is down, and not likely to ever recover to previous levels one the vastly expanded Panama Canal opens. The financing on this project was difficult,the project was downgraded into a stop and go, safety nightmare, and any reason for previously pushing this road seems to have evaporated. Now Bond is looking at it as an untolled alternative to the Port Mann, which is a far from realistic alternative for many motorists, merely transplanting congestion. 

So why is this project being built?

I suspect it has something to do with real estate, valuable commercial land and developments…

The Tsawwassen band used the South Fraser Perimeter Road as a selling point in this request for expressions of interest to develop industrial lands they now control near the ferries and Deltaport. It is billed as part of the lands being in a “strategic” location. Enter the term South Fraser Perimeter Road into the search box in this PDF file to see for yourself. Tsawwassen land projects   Nice to be able to say you have an allegedly dedicated highway for a selling point, no?

Here is another sales document that advertises 27 acres of prime industrial land on Tilbury island, and again, the South Fraser Perimeter road is billed as part of this properties strategic location. ( pdf) Tilburylanddevelopmentproperty

I’m sure this is only the beginning of a rush of land sales and development we might see along that route, development that may very well see further land taken from the ALR, or further harming the delicate and vitally important ecosystem of Burns Bog.

It has  also come to my attention that another route was offered up, one that went over stable land and was far less contentious, yet the government refused to consider it and went with the current plan. Why is that- are these land sales the real reason this road was built? Shades of Sea to Sky highway !!

This is, without a doubt, the wrong project in the wrong location, at the wrong time, and Falcon has been instrumental from day one in pushing this along, with the help of his friends in the federal government.

A scathing, and horrific excerpt to leave you with, from Stephen Rees’s blog link above, one that chills me to the bone:

…the Bog is the “lungs of the lower mainland,” the largest urban carbon sink in the North America, and vital to the survival of the world’s largest salmon run in the interconnected Fraser River.

…according to Environment Canada and the regional Burns Bog Scientific Advisory Panel’s under-publicized reports, the SFPR would essentially destroy Burns Bog.

 It would also increase mortality rates along the route–with seven Delta schools within a kilometer of the highway–force hundreds of North Deltans from their homes (many heritage), and steamroll over hundreds of acres of farmland.

..also learned of an alternate route to the SFPR, known as the Hoover/Naas proposal, that carries none of the above detrimental impacts because it follows an existing rail right-of-way removed from homes, schools and the Bog. This railway is already entirely owned by the the province.

The video also provides a summary of some shocking statements uncovered amongst the government’s environmental assessment application documents, such as this one, which suggests there could be an economic upside to people getting sick from increased air pollution:

“With increased air pollution there can possibly be increased employment (e.g., in the health sector) because of the economic activity associated with correcting the results of its impacts.” (Government documents for SFPR: Technical Volume 16, pg. 39, 4.3.5 Employment)

Heard enough?  The  people of Surrey and North Delta need have been long fighting  for their quality of life. The Burns Bog Conservation Society is always in need of various forms of assistance,including donations. For more information please go to their site at :  


* Falcon is billing himself a “new generation in leadership”. One would do well to note that doesn’t mean a different style of leadership from Campbell, only a younger version who may be around a lot longer… for a great, in-depth look at Falcon, who is billed here as a rebel with a cause… read this article quickly, before it disappears, like these kind of links occasionally do…

Kevin Falcon will not commit to a full BC rail inquiry.

Just back from the Vancouver Sun live chat with Kevin Falcon, in which every question I submitted was given to Falcon except the last, because time ran out.

So, what can you expect from Kevin Falcon if he were to be the leader of the Liberals, or worse yet.. shudder… premier?

He will continue to use and promote P3 projects far and wide, because in his own words, the government can’t build projects on time or on budget or as good as a private partner can. He says that P3 projects are not off the book debt, and are a great way to build the things we need. He also claimed the Sea to Sky was built on budget and for less than the government could have as was the Canada line.  ( yes, clearly although he was transportation minister, he has no clue it has been shown time and time again that the projects would have been cheaper if the government had built them. )

He skirted right by the shadow tolls issue and did not address it.

When asked if he would commit to a full BC rail inquiry into the sale of the railroad and the legal fees paid to Basi and Virk, he emphatically stated ” NO, I will not commit to a full inquiry into the BC rail sale…”  but ” I will agree to an investigation into the legal fees being paid to Basi and Virk”

Falcons reasoning was that the people who admitted guilt as to the statement of facts is what the government had been saying all along, that it was a couple of criminals responsible and one person with some unethical behavior but that was it. But he sure wants to know why the legal fees were paid because that was something he sure didn’t agree to.

Falcon does plan to continue the South Fraser Perimeter road because he sees the bigger picture of what our future needs… ( I suspect he has no clue what the opening of the expanded Panama Canal is going to do to our ports in terms of traffic… can you say the port expansion and SFPR will become redundant?)

He also talked about the importance of our natural resources in terms of using them,making jobs for people in the north, etc etc..

Yes, it is clear to me that a vote for Kevin Falcon, is a vote for Gordon Campbell et al. All over again… Those liberals who want to rid themselves of the Campbell era stink would do well to step away from the Falcon, who is looking more and more like another Campbell buzzard.