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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










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

Excerpt :

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Think about what I am telling you.

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

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

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

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

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

2002 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 37th Parliament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon Campbell, Olympics, mittens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Here is his statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

  1. Maybe tomorrow he will step down.I can’t imagine many will subject themselves to hearing him lie, AGAIN.
    Thanks Laila for your hard work in uncovering yet another piece of this traitor’s diabolical schemes.


  2. So the maintanence contract on the sea to sky highway pays the Maquarie group about $100 million dollars per year(for 25 years) and…

    A shadow toll, peachy.

    Another scorcher Laila…***** 5 stars…



  3. Well, now that you ask, I’m pretty sure (positive?) that the Kelowna Floating Bridge is tolled in the same manner. Ask your friend(s) at SNC Lavalin.

    The Golden Ears scans your license plate, as will the Port Mann. The SFPR road would pose a problem, what with all the possible egress & access points. I’m sure Ms. Reid can fill you in on that one.

    BTW, now that we are funding the Port Mann and have received a massive credit for so doing its possible that the parameters have changed on that one. If we are financing the contractor then there would be no need to provide it with a shadow toll? Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when at first we try to deceive!


  4. I’ve just done some research on the shadow toll and came across a rather insidious way that the bc liberals may have been collecting this tax. Property taxes are based on mill rates eg.
    “The Mike Harris government has reinstituted the project, but the string attached is that it can’t be a toll road. What they’re looking at is a shadow toll. So there will be a counter, in effect, in the highway that counts the trucks and the cars. It issues an invoice then to the Regional Municipality of Hamilton – Wentworth. That invoice is then matched against a source of revenue that they create either by a general mill rate or a special mill rate on the commercial sector, or whatever. But the amount of the invoicing to the municipality is directly related to the amount of traffic using the road. ”

    Or how about the SOUTH FRASER PERIMETER ROAD by the Fraser Transportation Group which will be undertaking construction work costing $658 million….. $58 million more than the sea to sky highway, paid for by shadow tolls paid by municipalities throughout bc.

    The new Port Mann Bridge toll has been pegged at $5.15 for casual users, then there’s the shadow tax which will almost meet or beat the casual toll rate.

    Why should I, as a resident of North Vancouver be paying for highways I never use. I thought the years of downloading costs from the Federal and Provincial government was a thing of the past? Now???? no wonder there are no monies for schools and the arts, no monies to find out who was involved in the sale of bc rail

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Has the Whistler Pique or Whistler Question or one of the Squamish papers covered this? I’d think they’d want to ….. (well, maybe not the Question, as questioning is not something that rag is known for….)


  6. It sure looks like British Columbia is the most corrupt province in the country. Is there anything that this BC Liberal government hasn’t messed with?

    If I was Campbell, I would be scared to walk the streets of British Columbia without the bodyguards!

    It sure seems like industry is making up all sorts of ways of extracting money from the public coffers. Of course we will never know if the is considered legal in this province given the level of corruption tha is becoming more evident as each day passes.

    Thanks for all your hard work Laila and keep up the good work.


  7. Good work Laila…remind me, weren’t the Campbell Liberals big supporters of ‘user pay’ at one point in their evolution?

    Seems to me that’s what Kevin Falcon’s been talking about in terms of health care…and George Abbott was often heard to muse about the same thing when he was health minister.

    And the Carbon Tax (I mean the Campbell Tax) was just another way to get ‘users’ to pay for their CO2 creation wasn’t it?

    And now we find out that what these crooks actually believe in is: a free ride for the Bimmers and Mercs tooling back and forth to Whistler of a weekend – while Mr and Ms Taxpayer (for whom Whistler is way to rich for her and his blood) gets tagged with the bill for every trip.

    I’ll tell you who the ‘users’ are.

    Time to vote the freaks off the Island.


  8. Another fine, important piece of work, Leila.

    Y’know, a crazy question kept coming into my mind as I read your report … I kept asking myself “Why do they hate us so terribly?”

    It’s been forever since BC Government legislation or tactics or even promises showed any sense of caring or concern for the citizens of British Columbia.

    Why do they hate us?


  9. I don’t think the shadow tax was a secret.

    Its been known for so long that I don’t recall how I knew about it. I know I always take the bus to Whistler now as I don’t want to give any more money to a destruction company than I have to. (would have taken the train… but that’s another story).

    I thought the shadow tax was just another one of those facts that drivers conveniently forget about when confronted with the true costs of driving…

    get all dreamy eyed when they can finally drive one something that looks like a car commercial… its even nicer when someone else is paying for it.


  10. Yep, G West expressed what I was going to say. People from depressed regions of the province are subsidizing travel in the Whistler – Vancouver corridor. And… with expected growth rates in Squamish / Whistler, that number is only going to go up over time.


  11. Well Andrew…

    If the “shadow tolls” are such common knowledge then Gordon Campbell, Kevin Falcon and Shirley Bond will admit it freely without some PAB bot making funny faces with head tilted at ackward angles hanging on their shoulder……


  12. I remember when Macquarie referred to the Port Mann Bridge Project as ” effectively a 37km toll road”.

    How many different ways can you pay for the same stuff?
    One of Macquarie’s toll road operator companies, Intoll, has the toll concession on the Highway 407 ETR till the year 2098.
    Currently the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board is negotiating to buy Intoll for $3.4 billion.

    International Business Times


  13. Thanks for bringing to light even more BC liaR sleaze, Laila, is there any end to the venality anywhere – ever?

    Skookum sez:

    “<Has the Whistler Pique or Whistler Question or one of the Squamish papers covered this? I’d think they’d want to …”

    But then as G. West points out, the Whistleroids and Squamish folks as well as the Beemer and Mercedes crowd are getting a free ride on our dime, so what’s to question.

    Jeez, up here in the hurtland, not only are we poorly (or not at all) served in terms of transit options, but we also get to pay so the rich folks from the “hole where all our money goes” down by the sea, can save fifteen minutes on their way to a resort most of us can’t afford to visit (though if we weren’t paying for them to go, who knows?)

    BTW, did anyone ever notice that the Gord is scheduling his cry for help (or is it a shout out to the converted) to compete with game one of the World Series. There’s one large demographic that won’t be watching, right off the bat – so is he really trying to communicate? I think not, I call this week Gordon Campbell’s Hail Mary Week and I don’t think fatboy Coleman or Ding Dong or Bird Brain Falcon can make the catch in the end zone.


  14. This government sickens me. The level of deceit is unforgivable.

    I guess that’s why Falcon has started charging 29.+ for people who have no where to go when recuperating in the hospital (like they really want to be there) and no beds available for them where they should be going. What’s he call it, room and board? Contravention of the health act it is. He’s despicable.

    Laila, keep up the good work. We must expose all of the rotten, corrupt deals that are going on.


  15. Just recently I read an article about Bill Good (CKNW) criticizing bloggers as individuals who often report stories without any facts. Bill Good can only dream of revealing such high quality investigative reporting as demonstrated here today. Great story and definitely a must read by everyone. Let’s wait and see how long it takes the MSM to get off their butts and follow up on this story. ( By the way, I have never listened to Bill Good )

    Guy in Victoria


  16. So, shadow tax is a hidden tax. But a tax is a tax. And how does the government collect taxes? Why, through the HST of course. And that mean big business doesn’t pay.

    It just gets better and better for recall.

    Excellent job Laila. Superb.


    1. Send it around Gary, send it around. If I were a person living elsewhere in BC, I would be even more choked at this story, since they likely will ever drive or benefit from it. Yes, we all pay in the end. Take heart, there have been several media outlets online( Global, CBC and the Globe and Mail ) and I corresponded with one reporter from a local radio station this morning, so hopefully we will begin seeing some coverage on this before his speech.


  17. This is definitely old news. These tolls were talked about before, during and after construction. No one seemed to be interested in them. The whole Sea to Sky P3 contract (along with many others) is a giant scam to hide debt. The Shadow Tolls are only part of the repayment scheme.

    The analogy that I use for P3s is akin to paying department store credit card prices when we have access to a bank line of credit at much lower interest rates. Why would we do it? The only winners are the people financing the project. We the taxpayers are the big losers.

    Thanks for bringing this back to the taxpayers attention. It would be nice if the NDP transport critic got involved and added some mileage to this story.


    1. Well, Ray, it may be old news to you, but I researched high and low and can find not one mention of this Sea to Sky story anywhere. If individuals knew in the corridor, no one said anything and it didnt seem to make the press ???

      I certainly agree that these P3’s are a scam, when time and time again experts state that in the vast majority of cases, the government can build it cheaper themselves, and with more control and accountability for the tax dollars used. Campbell and Falcon pulled some interesting projects out of the hat together, and I would suggest that the comptroller general take a serious hard look and audit each and every project right now. Especially this Sea to Sky, to see how much $$ is going out in tolls, and the Port Mann because no one knows what the hell is happening there or how much we are really on the hook for.

      The NDP transportation critic should be all over this one, as should James. Not to mention the privacy issues with the scanners, cameras and microwave technology that can tell how many people are in a vehicle. People have no idea how or what information is being retained and what risk it poses.


  18. A hearty thank you to everyone for the kind words, and a big thankful to the whistle that blew this information into my ear….

    Wendy, you raise a big concern here with me. The implications are staggering to say the least of how this technology could have been used without anyones knowledge or permission.

    John, I am working on that other information you sent my way and some good developments are coming soon. You are a peach!

    West End Bob, thank you for the kind words and I appreciate you getting this posted and out there!

    What can I say? I don’t think Campbell and the vast majority of his cabinet and crew care about anything but great photo opps, self importance and cold, hard cash. opportunists, all of them.

    Daniel, G west, workforfun, thanks as well, I know this was a shocker for most of us. Even with my inroads into the transportation and infrastructure sectors, this has never come up.

    Andrew, if you knew about this, why didn’t you tell anyone? Because clearly the vast majority of the public have no inkling of this.

    I dont think about dreamy car commercials when I am on that highway, all i think about is this….

    Guy in Victoria- What can I say about your comment, except thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have to say that I rarely take those comments from Bill and his guests seriously because I see the view from where he sits ( literally, I sat in his chair during my CKNW Talk Idol run and show – pretty damn good view up there…lol )

    I would love to see what Bill would say about this, or Christy. Maybe Jon McComb, who is the voice of reason on that station.


  19. Well getting this story into the press has always been a challenge. I think the P3 deals in general, are so complex that most people can’t follow them easily, so the media tends not to put much effort into unravelling them. But good for you to keep this one going. I wouldn’t focus entirely on the Shadow Tolls as they only a portion of how the project is funded. There is a maintenance contract, regular payments from the government, and several clauses in the agreement that could be used to make additional money through some ongoing construction work.

    I agree – the NDP should be all over this – but in the past have failed to push the government on these deals. I’ve supplied them with lots of information in the past.


  20. ” Microwave-based vehicle detection stations that provide speed, volume and occupancy
    – License plate readers implementing character recognition technologies, such as license
    plate readers providing travel time information”

    Two problems with this story:

    1. If a shadow toll is being collected, the electronic gathering system would be located at the entrance to the S2S at it’s junction with Hwy 1 – that’s the point of the highest AADT on the highway at about 10,000 AADT. (~5,000 ADDT north of Squamish)

    2. The electronic gathering system would be required to be mounted on an overhead gantry akin to the gantry at the northern end of the GEB. No such gantry or electronic monitoring system exists at the locale of the SKS or any other locale of the SKS.

    It would definitely be visible to the travelling public just like the GEB system and that of the 407ETR. You just can’t hide something like that behind a bush.

    Again, if this so-called electronic gathering system does in fact exist it would be at the Hwy 1/S2S junction. Get a picture of same and then I will be less skeptical. 😉


  21. Thanks a lot Laila for reminding us about $1 for all the BC Rail lands deal, and “Was the real reason for the privatization of BC Rail land development?” Of course it was, but where did that issue go?
    I think I’m going to lose my breakfast!
    I’m mad as hell…etc. No, I’m REALLY pissed off!
    I thought/hoped/wished all that bullshit would come out in the Basi/Virk thing. (No, I didn’t – I was pretty sure that too, would disappear. I don’t have much faith in the system any more.)
    Keep up the good work. By now it must feel like wiping you bum with a hoop)


  22. Ray–

    Please, please, please.

    If you have hard information, especially documentary information, please pass it along to Laila.

    While others may not know what to do with it she, as she has demonstrated here, and many times previously, does.

    And John – don’t leave us hanging on the Kelowna bridge….give us details.

    Finally, I don’t buy all this ‘it’s too complicated’ stuff….Once somebody (or some group of people doing the crowd sourcing like is starting to happen here) has a true understanding of an in issue they can explain it to anyone.



  23. Any idea where these cameras are situated…. I’d just like to get a photograph of them, you know, if it can count how many people are in the car, I could have my passengers ducking down so my car is not being counted for four times, rather than as one motor vehicle. One busload would be considered to be a bonanza, and that was the bulk of the traffic during the olympics.

    The camera angle because it could be posted on the web, as something to look forward to, to SMILE, WAVE, DUCK.

    License plates being recorded, without permission, sounds like a privacy issue here….. Which means that ICBC is involved in this like in the Golden Ears Bridge tolling system. Who gave, silly question, Cabinet gave approval to install the shadow toll, cabinet gave approval to collect the tax from municipalities as an increase in a mill rate….. does it show up on the property taxes


  24. Todd, I find it really interesting that you only ever pop up to try and spin away or discredit any Ministry of Transportation story, or Translink story. What is up with that ? Do you work for one or the other?

    The company case study is very concise about what equipment was installed and what it was used for. It also states future provisions allowed for transfer of the information to the ministry, so clearly MOT, Kiewit, Macquarie, etc etc… all will have answers for you and for me. I do hope the press will assist in this endeavor, they certainly have been spending enough time here this morning.

    I aam quite sure an internationally reputable company is not going to be making things up about this. Why not call the MOT to see if they will tell you anything about what is going on here?

    Why not drive out there and see for yourself?

    Better yet, I have called the company about this case study to see what they have to say. I will post a reply when it comes.

    Ray, I agree this is not a sexy or an easy sell,but I think I make it easy to understand so people begin to ask questions about things they never thought of before.

    I too, am eager to see what the NDP does with this information, because I do know they have this.

    John, I hear you, but I keep going at it, and if it doesnt work from one angle, you try another. Eventually someone talks.

    North Van Grumps,

    I am unable to get out to the Sea to Sky highway during the week, but if anyone reading can, and is able to, the company site has photos of different kinds of equipment they make on their site, and I am sure if you google the equipment terms, you can find independent images online to assist.

    RossK, you certainly hit the nail on the head, and several people have already contacted me with information, but of course, it takes time to review the information for what it contains. But yes, certainly I have been educated enough by concerned and high-level professionals in the field to know what to look for, and what it means. Certainly, FOI’s tend to give very little incriminating information at this level. The worst case scenari for the MOT and these companies is a writer who gets procurement,bids etc…


  25. Laila, transportation is my forte – that’ why I privately forwarded numerous access documents concerning “scope changes” on Hwy 1 and the SFPR to your attention, which are not in the public domain.

    And yes I drive the S2S to Squamish or Whistler about 10 times/year for recreational activities. I have never seen any overhead gantry with electronic gathering equipment, which is typically protrusive and bulky. For example, the overhead gantry and toll equipment is very visible at the northern end of the Golden Ears Bridge.

    We are not talking about a highway web cam here.

    The only way information on vehicle counts/license plates can be gathered on a 4-lane highway cross-section is via visible overhead gantry with mounted equipment. The information is then sent via microwave (as an example) to the intended recipient.

    Again, I have never seen these overhead gantries and I’m sure if they were built someone would be able to come up with a photo.

    Still an interesting story.


    1. Just because you personally have not seen them, does not mean this equipment does not exist Todd. This equipment was installed as per the company that created it. Answers from the government or these private companies are the only things that will settle this.


  26. Laila

    I’ll try to dig up some old stuff later today and give you some details.

    As for the monitoring of traffic – my understanding is that the recording is nothing more than a counter embedded into the highway. It’s not an attempt to identify every vehicle like the Golden Ears, which would require expensive equipment, but a general count that shows volume over time. The concessionaire uses that information as part of a formula that is used to calculate a monthly invoice that gets submitted to the government for payout. Not likely the equipment is easily visible or obtrusive for that matter.


    1. Thank Ray, a counter sounds definately unobtrusive, but what about all this other equipment ?? I hate to sound like a broken record, but they state clearly future provisions allow for the transfer of information to the government – no where does it state the equipment was removed or taken down/away. We shall see if they return calls.


  27. Thank you Laila!

    Your column is another of your well presented investigations. This shift of a significant revenue stream is another way of dumbing down the residents of BC.


    1. Thank for the kind words R. Graham. I agree, the government takes full advantage of situations like this where the average joe wouldnt know any different. And dumbing down it is. Rather insulting, not unlike Campbell when he recently announced at the unveiling of the Sea to Sky workers memorial that the project was ” ON time and ON budget”. Well, one out of two ain’t bad!!! I think he really believes what is coming out of his own mouth.. which is really, kinda, sorta very scary when the facts indicate something quite different.


  28. I just read the document referred to in your column about traffic monitoring. The very end of it explains it more clearly. The period of performance statement says 2003 – 2009.

    The builder had all sorts of requirements regarding traffic flow during construction. Down to the length of time that the highway could be completely closed during the day and average speeds along the route. There were penalties attached to any breach of the criteria established in the contract. Those criteria were part of the ongoing formula used to calculate penalties and bonuses during the construction phase.

    The ICX system looks like it was part of that process, which explains why close monitoring was critical. The company stood to lose money if the criteria was not met. Unfortunately the whole thing appeared to be monitored by Keiwitt instead of the Highways Ministry. Sort of like the fox gaurding the hen house. The system was also important because a system of incentives/bonuses were also attached and any breach also put those at risk.

    Once the highway was opened the only requirement was for simple volume counts.


  29. I did see that, but it also states future provisions allow for the transfer of data to ministry, and it doesnt negate that this scanning equipment was in place for years with no one the wiser who was travelling.

    Scanning licence plates is not something that should be done with public knowledge, we still need answers. And why the heck does a private company have any right to keep peoples information without explicit consent and oversight?


  30. Don’t you mean S2S Group, a subsidiary the Miller Group

    Search on google brought up these hits….

    Then I went looking for Macquarie Canada Highways Holding Ltd and there’s only one Director…. Jack Bittan who is directly linked to Macquarie quagmire in Toronto where they are busily gouging commuters.

    S2S … brought up this …..

    a Macquarie-led consortium, will be repaid according to availability payments, as well as a small element of traffic-related revenue.

    Click to access 050900-Project%20Finance.pdf

    The arrangers – RBS and SG – wrapped up the sale of the project’s C$498 million debt in August after an extremely positive response. Macquarie is providing all of the equity for the project, while among the section’s contractors are Peter Kiewit Sons, JJM Construction, Hatch Mott MacDonald, ND Lea, McElhanney Engineering and Capilano Highway Services. Whistler’s worthwhile work The project company, S2S Transportation, will be responsible for upgrading 13 discrete sections of the highway, which will each need to be brought to completion according to a set schedule. The concession has a length of 25 years – 20 years plus construction. The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation is the concession awarder, advised by Partnerships British Columbia, which is not only financial adviser, but essentially guides the province in the development of P3 projects. The road will be rehabilitated in several separate sections, of which some have already benefited from work undertaken by the province. According to Richard Fyfe, who was part of the province’s team for Sea-to-Sky, and now works in the attorney-general’s office, “one key consideration in using a P3 structure was the size of the concession. We structured the concession to focus on three key areas – safety, reliability and traffic management.” The province began preparing a business case towards the end of 2003, asked for registration of expressions of interest at the start of 2004, and solicited comments on the draft of the concession before issuing a formal request for proposals in December 2004. Most of the criticism from potential sponsors and lenders centred on security issues and step-in rights.

    The sponsors that bid for the concession were required to put forward a proposal with a financing plan attached, and were thus committed to a particular financing route. The sponsor has been unable to elaborate on its reasons for choosing the bank route, citing the province’s desire to keep details of the financing secret until a detailed value for money report is released.


    search criteria: s2s transport group brookfield asset


  31. Laila – the statement about future provisions says that the data could be used on project and ministry websites. I believe the data they are referring to is traffic volume and current conditions. The idea was to provde people with up to the minute travel information along the S2S during construction.

    As for the licence plates – it doesn’t look to me like they were gathering information about the occupants or the owners. The information was to indentify a vehicle so its travel time over various segments of the highway could be accurately recorded. So once a plate was scanned and recorded it could be identified anywhere it passed through sensors and compared to its entry onto the highway.

    Processing the volume of data that was captured would have cost a lot of money. I doubt whether S2S would have spent a penny more than absolutely necessary to gather this data.

    I don’t trust these guys any more than you do, but in this case it doesn’t look like they tracked more than just the fact that a vehcile passed along the highway at a given point in time.

    Again this is a question that the NDP should be asking Shirley Bond in question period. What information was gathered and where is it now.


  32. BC MoT utilizes a system known as TRADAS that monitors, stores and generate reports on traffic volume data on every highway in the province.. The information is not as precise as the sophisticated overhead gantry system and certainly is not able to collect license plate info, for example.

    They are typically known as “stations” embedded in pavement with roadside boxes similar to this:

    Along the S2S there are 8 such stations as follows:


    P-99-01NS Route 99, just South of Horseshoe Bay Drive, Horseshoe Bay







    MoT literally has hundreds of these “stations” all over the provincial highway system to assess traffic counts (AADT for instance) to assist in highway planning and are also determinative in new highway upgrades.

    If there is a “shadow toll” on the S2S that’s how the info is likely collected.


  33. I’m glad to see that an independent researcher is finally looking into the shadow toll phenomenon and how it relates to BC transportation projects. The public (with rare exceptions) remain ignorant of these tolls and their implications. Because we researched it (back in the spring of 2006), the folks who were trying to save Eagleridge Bluffs knew the S2S would be paid for through shadow tolls, and that the toll rates or formulas were (and remain) confidential under the “proprietary” agreements that prevent such info from being made public, even under FOI. The Eagleridge defenders tried to get the media interested, but all they wanted to write about was wealthy West Vancouverites sipping espressos in their protest tent city. Hopefully, Laila Yuile’s excellent research and expose will attract some broader media interest, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting.

    The Port Mann Bridge/Hwy 1 expansion is supposed to be paid for with a user toll. When gas prices started soaring, most P3 proponents backed off—their studies showed the tolls users would be willing to pay would not cover the design/build/maintain costs. In short, there was no viable price point. By the time the financial meltdown happened, the Macquarie-Kiewit consortium was the only one in the running—and then they backed out, leaving Falcon to announce that they would still build the project (which was then expanded to 10 lanes with demolition of the existing bridge) with Macquarie serving as a “consultant” but not as a P3. In other words, there was no tendering of the construction contract, which was handed to Kiewit, and no assumption of risk by the builder–not that any is actually assumed by the private partners under this type of P3. The PM/Hwy1 project will have a user toll, but it will be subsidized through general revenues. In all likelihood, Falcon considered turning it into a shadow toll P3, but Macquarie couldn’t convince investors to go for it, and/or Falcon and Campbell figured that replacing the user toll with a shadow toll would attract too much attention and raise uncomfortable questions (the kind Laila is raising re the S2S).

    The South Fraser Perimeter Road, (more accurately, the South Fraser Freeway) was, like the S2S, to be paid for in large part through a shadow toll. Why not a user toll like PM/Hwy1? Because the project was primarily justified as a truck route to serve DeltaPort expansion. The projections of 3X existing port throughput by 2020 are highly suspect due to shifts in global trade, peak oil, Panama Canal expansion, an ice-free Northwest Passage, competition from Prince Rupert and the fact that they assume a huge shift in market share from U.S. West Coast ports to Vancouver—in other words, they’re fraudulent. Moreover, in order to get support from the trucking industry, user tolls were a non-starter. It was also clear that a user toll would keep motorists off the SFPR in droves (who wants to drive their little compact sandwiched between huge transport and container trucks anyway?). Since the government is committed to using a P3 wherever possible, the answer was a shadow toll supplemented by federal money promised under the feds Gateway Strategy initiative, which, for example, helped fund port construction in Prince Rupert (to the dismay of their competitor, the Vancouver Port Authority which includes DeltaPort). I haven’t been following SFPR financing very closely of late (so correct me if I’m wrong, folks) but I vaguely recall reading that contracts for the SFPR had been signed with a consortium, but maybe not as a P3? If they can’t get a P3 to complete the SFPR, it probably means the construction and maintenance costs and traffic volumes are too uncertain to forge a deal, and/or the government is concerned that if the cost per vehicle somehow leaked out, or the media started reporting estimates by credible sources, it would be too much of a shocker for the public to swallow. But shadow poll or not, the SFPR will not have a user toll and it will cost taxpayers big time.


  34. I’ll reply in abit, hold down the fort and be good while I am away from the computer, people.

    And remember, how the information to calculate the tolls now is not as big of an issue as the use of this still invasive technology for the construction period- of this is correct( and we don’t know because no one is talking )

    And certainly none of these privacy concerns should deflect from the FACT that Campbell and Falcon slapped a hidden toll on this road to sweeten the deal and shoot some revenue over to the S2S group- that remains the larger issue by far!!!
    ( well that and the fact no one knows which other projects we might be paying hidden tolls on. )

    Ned, google up my previous posts on the SFPR + laila yuile for some history there. I think we should talk more about this one!


  35. protrusive … Whatever THAT means Ray – isn’t necessary.

    Traffic volume counts are gross numbers – the tag numbers don’t matter – there is no need to record numbers since the bills go from the contractor to the province on the basis of gross volume counts – they don’t give a shit where the cars and trucks are from – just that they’re using the roadway.

    Every vehicle counts and each one of them becomes a little profit center. No need to be INTRUSIVE; no need for sophisticated systems like those on the Golden Ears.



  36. “As for the licence plates – it doesn’t look to me like they were gathering information about the occupants or the owners. The information was to indentify a vehicle so its travel time over various segments of the highway could be accurately recorded. So once a plate was scanned and recorded it could be identified anywhere it passed through sensors and compared to its entry onto the highway.”

    So what’s to stop them from using this information to calculate rate of speed and issue speeding tickets via mail? The way they do in Britain? Nothing.


  37. Laila, I’ve sent the link to this story and your 100 Reasons article to five newspapers in a reply to letters sent in by their readers…only 1 has printed it so far, too early to call censorship yet…but I’ll see tomorrow morning.

    But!! The reaction to the link has been very positive…and the replies positive too. Articles like this one (and the Tercon issue which I suggested they may want to read, as well as Campbell’s beginnings)…are slowly opening the eyes of sleeping liberals in our little city. Some are even getting a bit testy!

    Love it!


    1. Lol… Good to hear Leah ! The story was picked up by a series of smaller community newspapers in the interior, among them the Nelson Daily, and the visitors here today have been unreal, in the high 5 figures, so in addition to the other papers, you have all achieved with tweets, email forwarding and posting in online forums and comment sections, something I think is really phenomenal!! At some points during lunch and the pre-dinner hour, the counts were coming so fast my stat counter was flicking like the second hand on a clock. You are all to be congratulated because this is a story that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. I, and others,will make sure of it.

      More later in reply to all these comments- WOW, rivals the paper today – but mom duty calls. See you after everyone is in bed!


  38. Here’s a provincial map of where all of the traffic counters are and all of the data associated with it, by the hour, by the speed, by the volume and specific points on the highways, including the POSTED speed limits at those locations.

    Sure am glad the good folks put a stop to selling off the Coquihalla Highway in 2003. That contract was slated for a Whopping 55 year contract, and for a highway that was finally paid off.


  39. Everyone on all three of my mailing lists has it Laila. That includes the 100 Mile Free Press.

    Let’s see what happens. If I get a few minutes I’ll blog on it.



  40. Excellent JOURNALISM, Laila and thanks.

    It might interest you also that a friend told me two weeks ago on a Friday to watch Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. I did and it was about the Bilderberg Group.

    This last Friday I watched it again and it was about how the ‘elite’ or at least they think so, are building bunkers in the U.S. in time for the Mayan end of the world in 2012 to house them and protect them while we will be left out to fry. At the end of this documentary they scrolled down all the players involved in building these bunkers and there it was…..Kiewit is a key player.

    The program is on Channel 49 in our area of Surrey and comes on at 10 pm Fridays and several other days and times and covers different theories each week. Very scary stuff.



  41. “if you knew about this, why didn’t you tell anyone?”

    Back in 2005, Friends of Eagleridge Bluffs documented all the problems with privatisation on their website and in their reports about the Sea-to-Sky Highway. But the details were impossible to nail down, since the public couldn’t view the agreement while it was being negotiated, and after it was signed, it was proprietary information and couldn’t be made public. Neat trick, eh?


  42. Laila, well written, well researched and well put together so it is easy to understand. You would be a welcome addition to any newsroom, and should be proud of this work, in particular when taken in the context that you are busy mother too. All that, and you still crank out something like this. On your own, without newsroom support and tools.

    I look forward to your continuing investigations!


  43. Gary E. – don’t hold your breath waiting for 100 Mile House Free Press…I commented there yesterday linking to this story, and it still hasn’t printed. In ANY Black Press paper. It seems censorship may be alive and well? Big Surprise. Not.


  44. I am shocked after reading this, totally shocked. How can a hidden toll which is not mentioned to us, the public, be legal when it is public money used to pay it? This toll is nothing but a really sneaky “tip”, to keep the company happy and makes the budget for the project smaller than it really is.

    Cooking the books is another way to describe it. I hope there is some serious uproar here, and I can not believe this is not on the front page of The Sun, and The Province. Seeing that they have not seen fit to report this news, makes me wonder what else they don’t report that I need to hear about. May I copy this onto paper and post them up in my community?


  45. I have been a liberal party member until right now. I just took my card and ripped it up. I am embaressed and disgusted by everthing you have written, because I didn’t really know how bad it was, but seeing your 100 list, and then this.

    It’s just too much and I really am a good person. I can’t condone a party like this.

    Thank you for this. Next goes the subscriptions because where is this story ?


  46. I agree that from reading the comments from the people who were fighting the highway route before, that its looking like the big press are ignoring the toll story, but for what reason? This is important for people to know for Gods sake!

    And who said it was ok to be scanning plates and using the other sensors without telling us, even if itwas for construction? Isnt that illegal or something?


    1. Hi everyone, it’s been a hell of a day here, and I have been bogged with emails, but I wanted to say that I will be commenting on all of this later on, because there are so many thought provoking comments here that need to be addressed.

      Just to let you all know, there is one reporter working on this right now, and hopefull we will see something soon.


  47. Click to access DS01%20-%20Site%20Alex%20Fraser%20Bridge%20-%20P-16-60NS%20-%20N%20on%2012-31-2009.pdf

    Route 91 At The South End Of The Alex Fraser Bridge in Delta

    Posted Speed = 90 kph

    Daily Speed Distribution for 12/31/2009 through 12/31/2009

    95.10-100—————– 73
    100.10-105 ———-15,358
    105.10-110 ——————0
    110.10-120———— 9,197
    120.10-14————– 2,712

    All Campbell is missing is the photo radar cameras, the ones he mothballed after he trounced the NDP in 2001


    1. Wow. I am never going to get my shower today with all this amazing stuff coming up… Look at this blog that just linked in –

      We just convinced yet another Liberal to never vote Liberal again !! Congrats, fellow blogger, for taking the high road.
      Now, off to get that shower done…lol.


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

        Here is his statement:

        There are no shadow tolls on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. As part of the operations and maintenance portion of the contract with the concessionaire, performance measures are in place for such things as lane availability, efficient movement of traffic and safety as measured by accident statistics. Additionally, these performance measures are monitored and audited by Ministry staff on an ongoing basis. That means if the concessionaire does not meet these standards, then penalties are applied and they don’t earn their full payment. This helps ensure good value for taxpayers, as outlined in the report Achieving Value for Money Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project available on the Partnerships BC website. The details of these contracts are also publicly available on the Partnerships BC website. As well the Auditor-General has reviewed and approved both the contract with the concessionaire as well as the value for money report.

        I have emailed Dave back for clarification, since this is in direct contradiction to the documents I have posted – one of which is from a major partner and financer inthe s2s group I have posted… and some I have not.

        Stay tuned for an update later tonight or tomorrow morning.


  48. Interesting but perhaps you can ask Dave to explain this section of the Consession Agreement for the S2S Highway Project (from the Partnership BC site):

    33.1 Monthly Invoices
    33.1.1 The Monthly Availability Payment, Monthly Vehicle Usage Payment and
    Monthly Traffic Management Payment components of the Total Performance
    Payment will be payable by the Province to the Concessionaire monthly in

    Would you ask Dave to explain what Monthly Vehicle Useage Payments are? Looks an awful lot like payments to the Concessionaire that reflect the volume of traffic on the highway for the month being invoiced. That would be a toll wouldn’t it?

    I realize there is more to the formula than just volume – but this section is outlining monthly payments to the Concessionaire based on traffic. If the volume goes up – so does the payment. Keep in mind this is for the life of the contract – 25 years. What’s the chance of traffic in the S2S corridor getting lighter.

    I would be interested in Dave’s response.


    1. As will I, Ray, because I do have this document – it is public – however if one looks at the file on my site, you will see many parts are highlighted as ” deleted”.

      In addition, there are a number of annex’s to this agreement that were never made public, and the details surrounding the shadow toll payments are in one of the annex’s as referred to in the agreement.

      Dave Crebo is the PAB rep for the MOT- I asked for a comment from Shirley Bond.

      I stand firm by my source, who is solid and committed. More documents are coming.


  49. I think the fact that he is making an attempt to question the facts in your article is telling. Someone in the Government is paying attention to your pursuit of the truth about these payments and the attention it’s getting.

    Nice work.


  50. Kudos on the investigative journalism!

    Never vote Liberal again?

    We should never vote for ANY political party candidate, only accountable independent representatives.

    But the voting public, ‘furnished with its unlearned wisdom’, has decided that voting for a political party, a front tied to powerful corporate backers and inside men, is all the democracy and representation it needs.

    As Churchill said, “the greatest argument against democracy is a 5-minute conversation with your average voter”

    The rules are in place for a people’s representative democracy, we just refuse too see what is more than obvious: a vote for a party removes your representation and gives it to the power structure behind the party to which your candidate is aligned.

    In effect, every four years we willingly vote away being represented in government.


  51. Thank you Laila for this well-researched bit of backdoor skullduggery being foisted on unwitting S2S users. The fiscal fandango and bamboozlement by Gordo’s shadowy “free enterprise” friends takes my breath away….along with railroads, hydro and social services! Keep up the good investigative work.


  52. Actually the skullduggery is being foisted on every taxpayer – whether they use the S2S or not. If you live in Fort St. John and never visit this part of the province you are still paying for this highway upgrade.


  53. Dig long enough and eventually something comes up on monitor that is equal in time to when the death knell was heard for BC Rail.


    The Tyee
    World’s P3 Kings Bid in B.C.

    Over 30 huge but little known global firms are behind bids for a single B.C. highway contract. Despite conflict concerns, some also advise government on its P3 strategy.

    By: By Claudia Cornwall, 20 September 2004,

    View full article and comments:

    “When we, the taxpayers of B.C., pay for the new Sea to Sky by-pass over Eagle Ridge Bluffs, we will, in effect, be buying a relationship rather than a road. The Ministry of Transportation (MOT) has decided on a P3 arrangement under which it will pay yearly fees to a consortium to design, build, finance and operate the highway, probably for a period of 25 years. ”


    “Questions about conflicts

    The complexity of the P3 deals raises another problem. It means the government needs help developing the contracts and structuring the deals. For the Sea to Sky upgrade, MOT has hired several companies to consult. According to a Registration of Interest Document published by MOT, “these advisors will be ineligible for participation with any proponent team in connection with the DBFO arrangements.” Meaning: they can’t advise the government and bid on the Sea to Sky deal at the same time. That would be a conflict of interest.

    However, this principle doesn’t seem to preclude one of the advisors, SNC-Lavalin Group, from bidding on another B.C. project: RAV.”

    Now why does this last paragraph sound vaguely familiar. Something about the BC Rail trail ….. hmmmmmm


  54. A tax on Gas, that’s what the BC Liberals are using to pay the Concessionaire for the Sea to Sky Highway.

    “Shadow toll is a payment structure where the road user does not pay any toll; instead the concessionaire collects revenue from the government in proportion to the number of vehicles using the road. While private operators have only the pricing tools to collect revenue, government additionally has the taxation tool as well which it can use to charge a higher road tax to its citizens. One way of doing this is imposing a cess on fuel.

    The shadow tolling system effectively, makes the road services ‘free’ for the user. At the same time, the government need not bear the extra burden of paying the toll, because it collects the money through the cess on petrol or diesel. The proposed cess would be minimal (less than a rupee) as it will be spread over a huge base and hence the citizens would not feel the pinch of the increase i . The highway road traffic would not be hampered by high toll prices, and thus be closer to their capacity utilization, ensuring maximum economic and social benefit. “


  55. Whew… a lot of comments, all excellent and I am glad to see from the discussion boards around the internet, and comments, trackbacks and incoming links, that people are getting the important parts of this story- the fact that this is not a transparent toll, which makes the public feel deceived and angry.

    Well ,get ready to feel even more angry shortly, because I am working on a followup story that will make the bile rise in your throat, I promise.

    Henri, thank you for finding those reference points for us !

    Ray,North Van Grumps, Ned – and others – you have all been so helpful and I would like to publicly acknowledge all of you who have been sending me information and thoughts relevent to this topic. Your expertise and insight are invaluable, and I really want you to know how much I appreciate the time it takes to do what you do!!

    Greg- you bring an interesting point up, and I really don’t know what to say. It was mentioned to me by several people connected to others in the MSM, that this was not really news, because it was old news. Meaning that the deal was old, the highway is done, or that everyone in the media new about this and did a group blind eye? I don’t know. I have talked to a couple of younger reporters who feel this is a huge story, and have not taken it up because of news directors who said there is no story, because the MOT says there are no tolls.

    Let me assure you, there are tolls, and there is a hell of a lot of hard proof, and far too many people who are and have been aware of this for some time. And the silence of the NDP on this issue speaks volumes.

    I, however, am of the mindset that the people need to know, and have a right to know what their elected officials are up to, and this falls into the ” WTF” category for shock factor when you hear it. I will explain more how the MOT tries to avoid the ” shadow toll” stigma with the public, and how it is right under all our noses for all to see, in my follow up post, coming Sunday night/Monday am.

    Joan, Zoe, radioman and Trevor, thanks for stopping. Zoe, I know firsthand what you mean, the government counts on people not being eager to look into the details, and then the details are not easy to understand. Thank god for my background which makes me very familiar with many aspects of contract law, combined with some good inroads into the entire industry, because I can look at these items and understand exactly what is going on, whereas someone else might not.

    G west, Gary E, thank you for stepping up and making it a team effort once again!

    Igbymac, Andy, thank you for the kind words, it is indeed a boondoggle of the worst kind, especially in light of the reports detailing how we as a province,could have saved so much money. Kevin Falcon was a big fan of this Value for Cost idea that really rigs the way the government evaluates P3’s. Let me explain it like this – some very .. unique.. manners of accounting and math to justify the insane cost of a P3 in construction financing and debt. The only problem is, it has been recognised that this method of evaluation the liberals use, is faulty in and of itself.

    Kind of like Campbell offering us a %15 tax cut, when the combined $$ amount of the increases due to HST, living cost and the services /fee increases we are subject to in other areas is far greater overall.

    People in northern BC and the interior should feel even more ripped off about these tolls than we do, since the state of their highways and roads up there is atrocious and has been for many years.


  56. There’s a very interesting paragraph in the material NVG has linked to.

    I’d be interested to hear what Dave Crebo has to say about this:

    “…shadow tolling makes it easier to estimate the traffic as there is no price effect, and the prediction can be made with a greater precision. Also, the traditional systems have an embedded risk in terms of the willingness of the user to pay the toll when an alternate route is available (albeit with a lower service level).”

    “In the calculation of toll, although a higher toll increases the financial advantage, beyond a certain point the elasticity kicks in, and even revenue drops with further increase in price; as a result the economic viability is severely compromised. Thus to make road projects financially attractive, the government may consider shadow tolls to make up for uncertain cash flows.”

    Whether the cash comes out of general revenue OR is tapped out of the gas tax (or the carbon tax for that matter) is entirely irrelevant. The simple point is that this is NOT A USER PAY SYSTEM – it is another example of corporate welfare for a particular ‘class’ of British Columbians at the expense of the rest or us.

    It is, in fact, socialism in reverse.

    I’ll await Dave’s response – but I won’t expect it – I imagine he’s shoved the file up the chain of command a step or two – probably out of his pay grade.


  57. G West here’s another link to read, keywords are Sea to Sky Highway

    Click to access columbiap3_eng_v8-webpdf_0.pdf

    June 2009
    Written by Heather Fussell and Charley Beresford
    Research assistance Rachelle Mellanby

    Page 82 shows the initial cost to build and actual cost to build/pay

    SNIP but here, starting at page 64

    “In British Columbia, Partnerships BC has used the private consortium’s WACC as the discount rate for calculating the net present value of the P3 versus the PSC instead of the government’s cost of borrowing. In his paper examining the Sea-to-Sky Highway value for money report, Dr. Marvin
    Shaffer takes issue with this method. Shaffer argues that when Partnerships BC uses the WACC to determine the public sector comparator’s discount rate, it implicitly assumes that the government’s cost of borrowing is the
    same as the cost of capital for the private sector. He notes that although Partnerships BC recognizes that the private sector pays a higher cost to borrow, they argue that this is because of the risk that the private sector takes on when it enters a P3. According to this logic, the discount rate that is applied to the public sector comparator should reflect the same project risk. However, Shaffer argues that because Partnerships BC also adds a risk transfer amount as an additional cost in the public sector comparator, they are effectively double counting risk. After reviewing four P3 projects in BC, forensic accountant Ron Parks agreed with Shaffer that Partnerships BC’s practice of applying a discount rate that reflects the private sector’s cost of borrowing effectively double counts risk.”


  58. Dave Crebo Public Affairs Bureau Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure 250 387-7787. As Dave is a PAB employee, anything he has to offer is probably pretty well spun and is just more damage control.


  59. Wow that was something waking up to Laila Yuile in my ear on Radio One!! Long time reader,and this is my first time commenting with a big smile! Great way to start my morning hearing you make noise on the radio about the Falconator!! Wooohooo!!

    Too bad I couldn’t hear you everyday waking up!!! Way to go girl!


  60. Ha,ha! Seriously, that makes me laugh ; )

    I had no clue until I woke up and checked emails and there were several from readers who heard the same clip. I don’t even know what part they used, but I am glad you enjoyed it all the same. Thank you for the very kind words!


  61. Sea to Sky Highway Pasco Road

    Page 14 of 44

    The existing highway from the tie-in with the northbound couplet to Horseshoe Bay will revert to
    2 dedicated southbound lanes. Alignment improvements are envisioned at several locations
    including 100+600 to 100+900, 101+000 to 101+500, 101+700 to 102+000, and 102+100 to
    103+000. These improvements are primarily located to the downslope side and will require
    retaining walls for much of their length to support the highway.
    From about 101+850 to 102+150 the alignment shifts slightly upslope and the old section of highway is proposed to be used as a pullout. Pasco Road access will revert to right-in/right-out only. A second upslope realignment is proposed between 103+750 to 103+950 and the old section of highway is proposed for a pullout.

    Volume 1 – The Project…/1060806953509_ce2c54c2647c4ab0816dde30ef6d5…
    Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project i. Table of Contents …… retaining walls for much of their length to support the highway. From about 101+850 … 105+600 and 105+800, with realignment to the right, or east side. …… Asphalt pavement is commonly crushed and used for other purposes, for example MSE wall backfill …


  62. […] I revealed the reason why it can’t be tolled here back in 2010 with confidential documents from Macquarie, one of the consortium members – the sea to sky P3 agreement already had a ‘shadow toll’ included as part of the governments payments to the concessionaire:… […]


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