The truth will set you free…but first, it will piss you off.

And can anyone tell me what is the biggest, as of yet relatively un-reported story of the week? Can you ?  Didn’t  think so, unless you happened to be listening to News 1130 recently, or reading the blog of the Powell River Persuader!   

 Dave White of News 1130 broke the news that – contrary to a press release in 2009, and another one in July of this year – the Port Mann bridge will not be completed a year ahead of schedule after all – but we will begin paying tolls on it, regardless.

From News 1130:

SURREY (NEWS1130) – Drivers who use the Port Mann Bridge will be paying a toll on the new crossing when it opens in 2012, even though it won’t be completely open to traffic.  Project planners say you’ll still notice a significant reduction in traffic volume.

The bridge will be open to eight lanes of traffic late in 2012: three will be general purpose lanes and one HOV in each direction.

Its full capacity is 10 lanes, but the other two won’t be open until a year later, the province’s original projected opening date of December 2013.

As I said, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

Campbell originally said the bridge was slated to open in 2013.

Then, in April of last year, he said this:

People living south of the Fraser want to see this bridge built; Lower Mainland commuters want to see this bridge built; B.C. businesses want to see this bridge built; and the BC Liberals are building this bridge,” said Premier Campbell. “Finishing earlier means a year less congestion. It means having RapidBus service across the bridge a year earlier. It means the largest-ever investment in new cycling infrastructure will be ready for cyclists a year earlier.”

Yes, that bridge will be finished one year earlier than they thought. Toot those horns, pat yourselves on the back. In fact, Campbell liked the press that received so damn much, the government issued another press release in July of this year, and the press reported again, that the bridge was ” One third complete, on time and on budget ” .

So,after News 1130 broke the story yesterday that the bridge wasn’t going to be finished a year ahead of schedule after all , but we are going to be paying tolls a year ahead of schedule because it is partially open, how did Transportation Minister Shirley Bond, and Premier Gordon Campbell respond? Quite frankly, they didn’t.

After all, it seems there  is some kind of  confusion , a ” mis-communication of facts”, on their part.

According to News1130, Shirley Bond couldn’t be reached for comment. Gordon Campbell’s mouth is shut tight. A representative for the Port Mann project was located for comment :

Pam Ryan speaks for the $3 billion Port Mann/Highway One Improvement Project.  She says eight lanes will be a major improvement over the five available right now.  “The provincial tolling policy is really about tolling for a significantly improved infrastructure where there is a significant benefit.  We know from some of the earlier consultation, undertaken with bridge users and they do support the principles of the toll.”

The toll won’t increase when the bridge fully opens in three years, but is expected to rise over time. 

I highlighted the laughable portion, because I don’t know anyone who supports a toll on this bridge, and in particular it will be harder to swallow if it isn’t even complete!

So, considering the hypocritical nature of this latest development, why is this not being flashed all over the news? This government needs to be called out immediately, because the point is that despite previous assertions to the contrary, the Port Mann Bridge is still not going to be completed a year earlier, and whether or not it is on budget is high speculative as well, considering the auditor general just pointed out how irregular and disputable –  their accounting practices related to the bridge construction are.  

Let me say this. This Port Mann bridge project needs to have a thorough shakedown and review, going back to day 1. I’ve worked on many aspects of this story for the last couple years.

First,  the province announces the new bridge will be a P3 project- a public private partnership – which allegedly reduces cost and risk for the government. It’s passed off as a great day for British Columbia, however the glow began to fade shortly thereafter.

Second, rumours circulate the financing of the preferred bidder, the Connect BC Development Group, is in trouble.

Within a short time , transportation minister at that time, Kevin Falcon announces that the province is going to lend the group the money to finance the project and that it is no longer going to be a P3, which is better because the province can get better lending rates than a contractor could??!! 

This started a whirl of questions about how the province could undertake to finance such a huge amount, and why.  Stories emerged that indicated  the BC government had underwritten  far more than they had admitted to, putting into question not only the math on the deal, but the ethics and nature of reasoning as to why Falcon would even consider such a deal.  ( Interestingly enough, all the Sun links in these bits are no longer around, even in cached form)

To this day, the people of BC have never received an answer, because Falcon claimed the details were private and could not be released to the public. Contractors complained repeatedly to me  that instead of financing  the project, it should have gone to the next best bidder.

From the very beginning, this deal has been secretive,and questionable in every aspect.  It began with the bids, the financing, the discretely conducted, behind-closed-doors dealing, and continues with very public deception on the  incorrect completion date, the budgets and the toll amount .

The people of BC  deserve to know the truth, and every detail of the highly suspect negotiations behind the Port Mann Bridge. They deserve to know how much the government committed itself to covering.

 They deserve to know why a bidder who could not fulfill its obligation still ended up getting a very lucrative bid, when there were other bidders ready, willing and financially able to do the job, and pay for their share.

Most of all, they deserve to know why so much secrecy surrounds this entire project.  In fact, if ever there were a project to be reported to the competition bureau for investigation, this would be the one.

The Port Mann Bridge project is a deal that, quite frankly, may see the taxpayers of BC on the hook for a hell of a lot more than they bargained for, and anything less than a full investigation into all aspects of this deal is unacceptable in my view.

* I contacted Dave White this morning, who has not received comment from Shirley Bond, or the Premier.  I called the Premier’s office and spoke to Mat McInnes,  who told me the premier was not available to comment because he is on ” personal time” for the next two weeks. I am  still awaiting comment from Shirley Bond’s office, and will post it as it becomes available.

17 thoughts on “The truth will set you free…but first, it will piss you off.

  1. Lynn

    Makes me wonder if the money well has run dry and the PM roadway will remain 8 lanes.could that be the reason why they will charge tolls?
    What is the RapidBus Service? Is the RapidBus Service a Coast Mountain Bus Company or a contract to a private company?
    I recall the Alex Fraser connector ran out of money which is why (for the longest time) there was a traffic light on the north end of the bridge for the east/west connector.

    Like

  2. Billy

    Pardon my preface.

    truth
    O.E. triewð (W.Saxon), treowð (Mercian) “faithfulness, quality of being true,” from triewe, treowe “faithful” (see true). Meaning “accuracy, correctness” is from 1560s. Unlike lie (v.), there is no primary verb in English or most other IE languages for “speak the truth.” Noun sense of “something that is true” is first recorded mid-14c.
    Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter. [Milton, “Areopagitica,” 1644]
    Truth squad in U.S. political sense first attested 1952. Truthiness “act or quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than those known to be true,” catch word popularized in this sense by U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert, declared by American Dialect Society to be “2005 Word of the Year.”

    knowledgeable
    also knowledgable, c.1600, “capable of being known, recognizable” (a sense now obsolete), from knowledge (which also was a verb in M.E.) + -able. The modern sense of “having knowledge, displaying knowledge” is from 1829 and probably a new formation.
    knowledge
    M.E. cnawlece. For first element see know. Second element obscure, perhaps cognate with the -lock “action, process,” found in wedlock.

    I found the expression somewhere online and have this corollary …
    “Truth being subjective is not enough to set us free. Knowledge is what sets us free ©”

    The following quote from Plutarch …
    “A man is born a King and by his own design either holds or relinquishes his stature by the weight of his knowledge of the laws of his community and up through to his country.
    I stand under no man’s banner save that of the creator.
    Were we to have cognisance of the laws as put forth by Sir William (Billy ;-)) Blackstone we could prevent the politicians of all stripe for the hoodwinkery they practice.
    They are organised. We are not.

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  3. Curt

    Laila, yes, there needs to be an investigation on the whole sleezy job from MacQuarrie and each company involved thereafter, and including the provincial lieberals and in particular Minister(s) past and present of Transportation, Cambull’s involvement, other Crown corps involved. Everything this government touches turns out to be crooked in my opinion, and costs us working stiffs more and more.
    I still say this is the Trans Canada and until they toll it across Canada, no toll should be on this particular part of it. Utter BS. What’s Harper and Co think? I’m sure they wouldn’t say anything after the HST crap.

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  4. John's Aghast

    I don’t think Campbell and his cronies had the intelligence to put this scheme together. It had to be orchestrated by some higher level of intellect. The Messina Bridge cartel? Hmmm!

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  5. Billy

    To Lynn,
    What we don’t know does hurt us. In our ignorance we live under a fraud of such massive proportion that to bring it to the attention of those who lack the knowledge is akin to being a pariah for doing so.

    Check this out. Canada is TRADED in the US Stock Exchange and registered as [ What about the OTHER “ex-colonies”?] :

    “…CORPORATE CANADA in USA. This is Canada’s Corporate registered number. 0000230098 CANADA DC SIC: 8880 American Depositary Receipt. Business Address Canadian Embassy 1746 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036…”

    Like

    1. Laila

      Guy In Victoria –

      You got it -partially.

      It was no secret that the financing went sour, that was well reported, but when people started asking questions, Kevin Falcon shut his mouth and claimed it was confidential- the negotiations and details etc. It wasn’t a secret that the the province decided to handle the financing, but again, he refused to give the nuts and bolts on it. That has remained a secret to this day.

      After a while… everybody let it go, and no one asked any more questions, but me.

      It just stunk, and I could never wrap my head around the deal, and why anyone would do something like this. I worked for years in financial investigations, handling big$$ corporate debt. I understand very well , the areas of contract law and procurement, and I’m saying this deal is wrong, just wrong. Always was, and always will be , the biggest con pulled over the people of BC as far as I am concerned.

      Unless, that is, the province comes clean, or someone talks.

      It is important to read the links I have inserted in the story above. Far too many questions, and no answers.

      This link from an Australian paper at the time highlights a huge issue. Read this carefully. : http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/Lessons-from-Canada-$pd20090220-PF6Z7?OpenDocument&src=sph

      Lessons from CanadaTony Boyd

      Published 3:47 PM, 20 Feb 2009

      ——————————————————————————–

      David Roseman, Macquarie Group’s head of infrastructure for Australia and New Zealand, is right to say that there are lessons for Australia from the recent financing of a large infrastructure project in Canada.

      The financing of the $C3.3 billion ($4 billion) Port Mann Project in British Columbia was agreed in the past few weeks. The story of what happened leading up to the final deal being signed provides insights into the emerging funding model for infrastructure.

      It also serves as a reminder that the public-private partnership model for financing infrastructure is alive and well despite the global financial crisis.

      Macquarie led a consortium called Connect BC Development Group that was selected in August 2008 to enter into negotiations with the British Columbia government for the construction of a 10-lane bridge and connecting highway. It is effectively a 37km toll road.

      Roseman told an infrastructure seminar in Sydney this week, hosted by Minter Ellison, that when the Macquarie-led consortium was selected as preferred bidder on the toll road, underwritten debt and equity was locked in.

      “By the time the government had evaluated the proposition and come back to us the debt underwriting had expired,” he says.

      “The debt was underwritten pre-August and no bank was going to hold their pricing. Post August, they said the pricing is not X it’s Y.

      “We went back to the government and they ummed and ahhed. By the time they came back to us, half the banks had actually disappeared and it wasn’t a question of pricing.

      “So we said if you want to do the deal, the equity is there but you are going to have to do something. So the government actually stepped in and they have underwritten the whole debt. We will probably get half syndicated to the private sector.”
      In its announcement for the project, the province said it was financing $C1.15 billion in the form of a repayable loan and this was being matched by bank financing.

      The consortium is putting forward their own equity to pay for the remaining $C1 billion. It is likely that Macquarie Group and one its unlisted funds will contribute the bulk of the equity to the project

      unlisted funds, eh?

      That’s the problem. No one knows anything about anything about this project, and everything we do know, has proved to be incorrect, inaccurate or a downright lie.

      I agree Kurt, this is still a section of the Transcanada, and I don’t think it should have been tolled. It is going to make a huge impact on the other bridges. However, the bigger story remains to be found in the machinations behind this project, and the deal in general. I’m pretty sure the other bidders who could have, and likely should have been next in line when MacQuarie couldn’t do the deal, would like to know too.

      Like

  6. Are you saying the Liberal government made a secret deal to lend this company the money to build the bridge ?
    Are you also saying this government will not talk about it ?
    So this company gets a great deal on financing, makes itself a lot of money during construction, and the government goes around telling everyone how great this Province is because we have lots of construction happening.

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  7. North Van's Grumps

    You gotta love this:

    “2.7 Tolls will be used to generate revenue for transportation projects and provide a return on the investment of the private-sector partners. ”

    If the government is providing the total funding for the Port Mann, then the way this 2003 blurb is written by the BC Liberals, then it will be BC taxpayers who will be in receipt on the investment, but as a PUBLIC-sector partner, eh.

    Source: Guidelines for Tolling – April 2003
    http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/publications/reports_and_studies/tolling/index.htm#fifth

    Like

  8. Laila

    Todd, North Van, this is all great information. Todd, if you wouldnt mind, can you email me and advise where to find one can find out things like scope changes? You have hit on something there

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  9. North Van's Grumps

    Trivia question

    Did you know, in light of what is happening on September 13, 2010 in the BC Supreme Court of BC, that there is a 40 minute drive, or 55 minute drive during rush hour traffic, between these two zip codes in Denver, Colorado….CO 80504 and CO 80209?

    The first zip code belongs to Flatiron (winning bidder for the Kicking Horse Pass project and the PMB) and the last one belongs to Omnitrax, the loser in the bid to buy BC Rail.

    The Flatiron company building these two projects is a subsidiary of the HOCHTIEF Company (Germany):
    http://www.flatironcorp.com/assets/ProjectSheets/1044-PortMannHighway1.pdf

    “With Flatiron as the design-builder and HOCHTIEF as the concessionaire, our team is uniquely positioned to offer turn-key PPP solutions for roads and other PPP transportation projects throughout North America.”

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  10. cherylb

    I shudder to see what we’re going to find out when we kick these criminals to the curb…..on another note – what do you think about the new political party that Sal Vetro from Fight HST has started up?

    Like

  11. North Van's Grumps

    Todd, it appears that the price tag has risen by point one of a billion dollars since yesterday, its now pegged at $3.3-billion courtesy of:

    “Campbell doing his best to polish up Port Mann Bridge

    Premier expected to retire before next election”

    By Michael Smyth, The Province August 26, 2010 7:28 AM

    http://www.theprovince.com/opinion/Campbell+doing+best+polish+Port+Mann+Bridge/3444706/story.html

    SNIP

    “BALLOONING COST: From $800 million, to $1.5 billion, to today’s whopping $3.3-billion price tag, Bains fears the Port Mann toll will skyrocket to cover costs.

    Stay tuned. This debate is just getting started.”

    ************************************************
    Trivia question:

    Point one of billion being what in dollars?

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  12. Laila

    North Van Grump: Well, better late than never for Smyth to jump on the Port Mann bandwagon. I doubt very much 3.3 is the actual figure, as I have come into some information that indicates there are some huge changes going on.

    Cheryl, I reserve judgement on any new party until I see who is running the show, why, and what their platform is going to be. That being said, I sure like the name BC First.

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  13. North Van's Grumps

    http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/Projects+helped+grease+wheel+political+fortune/3444973/story.html “Projects helped grease wheel of political fortune” Vaughn Palmer

    SNIP

    “I would add, though Doyle didn’t, that March 2009 also fell in convenient proximity to the coming provincial election. In pushing those project dollars out the door with little regard for proper procedures, the Liberals were probably looking to stimulate their political fortunes as much as the economy.”

    In the Vancouver Sun this morning, via Vaughn Palmer, there is the Local Motion rip off by the BC Liberals, suggesting that during the last provincial election they used the program to assist in their endeavors……… for example, I’ve had a look at there progress report for July 2010 (http://www.localmotion.gov.bc.ca/docs/localmotion_progress_report_july2010_combined.pdf) and picked on MLA Ben Stewart who represents Westside-Kelowna, okay the HONOURABLE Ben Stewart….. his riding was eligible for $ 340,000, received a grant of $ 170,000 and is 5% complete as of July 2010.

    My bet is that if you go down the full listing of the progress report, how many BC Liberal MLA’s are the beneficiaries of the BC Government taxpayers…..

    Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster BC Liberal
    Transportation Demand Management Initiatives
    eligible for $ 1,067,626 received $ 533,813 percent complete 95

    West Vancouver, Capilano or Sea to Sky …. both liberals
    eligible for 981,006 granted $ 490,503 nothing complete

    Surrey- White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg BC Liberal

    Williams Lake, two MLA- one NDP the other BC Liberal, not clear which MLA is the beneficiary….

    Trivial question: Do you think it was a NDP candidate or a BC Liberal candidate?

    MLA: Ron Cantelon Parksville-Qualicum eligible for $ 200,000 granted $ 100,000 45% spent………

    I could go on, but the numbers seem to indicate so far that they have been designed for the purposes of press releases. A high number was announced, then once the election was over, the eligible monies were cut in half, which would go a long way to suggest that Mr. Campbell and Mr. Hansen knew well in advance of the election that their slightly under Five Hundred Million Budget was way off of the mark.

    Trivia question: What do you think?

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  14. Laila

    North Van, you are a veritable wealth of information ! This is Quite interesting, if I may say so. I’m going to have to take a closer look at that when I am finished my current research.

    Like

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