Links and stories you might have missed: Critical state of rail infrastructure, BC Hydro debt scandal and SNC Lavalin
“I’m just catching up with yesterday, by tomorrow I should be ready for today : )”
To be honest, I totally relate this summer!! Busy, busy, busy and most writing is getting done pre-dawn or post- sunset and frankly, when it’s 30 degrees and humid – it just isn’t going to happen. 🙂
However, I have come across several items that are important, so let’s take a look at them this morning and I welcome you to share if you like, with friends and colleagues.
I was like many, horrified at the accident and aftermath of the Quebec train derailment that resulted in the loss of life, heritage and infrastructure in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
This accident of course, has resulted in the discussion of whether or not a similar scenario could occur in B.C., and what the impact of such a potential derailment could be. Considering many harmful and lethal agents are transported by rail, this is a valid question.
In fact, this has always been a concern of mine because I live in between two major rail lines, in particular when I was told by a rail man that the dangerous cargo was transported via rail prior to 6 am not far from my home.
This video is a must watch. I’m not a structural engineer or metal expert, but it would seem to me that shoring up a bridge with wood beams would be a sign it’s time to replace the damn structure. Again, as with many things, the human component is often a cause of failure. We know structures can rust and this bridge has areas that are completely rusted away, and areas where rust has created holes in the structure. We know infrastructure needs maintenance. However, when that doesn’t happen, the results could potentially be disastrous. This video raises some serious questions as to what kind of maintenance is being done to critical rail infrastructure, because it appears to show very little maintenance has been done on this bridge at all.
After the video started making the rounds ( 1343 views as of the time of this post ) CBC’s Dan Burritt took an engineer from UBC out to the site and had a look and the engineer was appalled. BNSF states that despite the holes and condition of the bridge, it is safe. However, there are plans to replace it soon as soon as the required permits are in place.http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/BC/ID/2396341982/
The question is now, how many other structures exist out there, in the same condition as this one? If you know of a rail bridge in similar condition, let me know and send me video or photos, with details on the location and owner of the rail line.
Next up, let’s take a look at the looming disaster known as BC Hydro.. the BC Hydro debt scandal. And yes, a scandal it does indeed make.
Despite people like Erik Andersen, Rafe Mair, and Damien Gillis detailing it at length for quite a long time – sadly a large portion of British Columbians remain unaware of the looming crisis:
Wow… and if that wasn’t enough to get you going, here is another reality check – a must watch also from Damien Gillis.
No kidding. And of course in the news recently was the fact that BC Hydro is not prepared for any natural disaster which could leave parts of the province without power for months. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/07/04/bc-hydro-rate-increase.html
SNC-Lavalin, the firm that has been banned from bidding on Word Bank funding projects, has been given TT$2.2 million by the Trinidad and Tobago government to design the Penal hospital – and there are still questions about the Canadian governments involvement and influence in the process. http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2013-07-10/snc-lavalin-gets-22m-design-hospital-penal
“In an e-mail, Stapleton-Whyms said there were no ongoing negotiations between Udecott and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) over the contract. The $1 billion hospital is expected to be built at Clarke Road, Penal.
Minister of Housing Dr Roodal Moonilal said Government still reserved the right to reject the contract if the CCC failed to explain on what grounds SNC-Lavalin was chosen.
“As stated in the Framework Arrangement between our respective governments, CCC confirms that it has engaged SNC- Lavalin Constructors International Inc, one of the leading engineering and construction groups in the world, as its Canadian supplier to design, engineer, procure, construct and commission the hospital in the town of Penal.”
This story has been making news since June when it was announced that Trinidad and Tobago government officials were investigating if the Canadian government had done the appropriate due diligence in selecting SNC Lavalin as the contracter to design and build the hospital .
SNC-Lavalin was selected by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, which is a crown corporation of the federal government, which helps private business win international contracts. News reports allege the TT government had no choice or input into the selection of the contracter for the hospital project, which is being made possible in part by a loan from the Canadian government.
Both the Canadian Commercial Corporation and SNC- Lavalin disputed these claims to Globalnews recently ( my inquiries were not answered) :
“Kurt Ramlal, CEO of the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago, told the paper that Trinidad is not responsible for SNC-Lavalin’s involvement in the potential deal. He told the Guardian, “I think all questions that relate to the contract must be directed to the Canadian government because we had no control at all on the tendering or selection of this contract.”
Both CCC and SNC-Lavalin dispute these claims. They say no deal has been signed and if Trinidad does not want to do business with SNC-Lavalin it doesn’t have to sign the contract.”
Of course, what makes all of this very interesting to me, is this: ”
“Arthur Porter, the Conservative-appointed former head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, is accused of accepting bribes in connection with the awarding of a $1.3-billion contract to SNC-Lavalin to build a hospital in Montreal.
According to an Interpol report, Porter was en route to Trinidad and Tobago when he was arrested in Panama along with his wife and charged with fraud.”
Talk about things that make you go ‘ Hmmm..’, add this one into the never ending allegations,investigations and connections between SNC Lavalin and government business across this country and many others.
But don’t worry BC, because our new Transportation Minister Todd Stone recently told Andrew MacLeod this in a recent article for the Tyee :
“I don’t have any concerns about their work in British Columbia,they have a stellar record, frankly, on projects that we’ve partnered with them on: the Canada Line, the Sea to Sky Highway, the W. R. Bennett Bridge in Kelowna.”
“Referring to the Evergreen Line contract, the government has “gone beyond the call of duty on this one from a procurement process perspective, to make sure all the protections we can possibly have are there,” Stone said. “Things like ensuring there are progress payments made.”
Stone also pointed out that SNC Lavalin has “a significant amount of private financing” to complete the project. “Those financial organizations would have very high standards for procurement as well. I’m confident those protections are there.”
The government would “try to apply the highest level of scrutiny on any project regardless of the proponent, and I think we’re doing that in this case with SNC,” he said”
In many cases across the spectrum, including Quebec, it is exactly the procurement process and private financing that has come under scrutiny.
Claire Trevena, the NDP’s new transportation critic, had this to say about SNC Lavalin in the same Tyee article linked to above:
“This is one of the differences between us and the Liberals,” she said. Along with price, the government needs to look at how the company will work with the people of the province, what it’s offering, how well it will do the job, and its record on worker safety.
While she said SNC Lavalin’s international record should raise some red flags, she concluded, “You can’t say because of allegations that have been made you won’t do any business with them.”
And last but not least, the premier finally won a seat as an MLA so she can enter the legislature legitimately and not have to pass notes from the visitors bench. http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2013/06/27/NoteNoted/
On the NDP side, they’ve learned that running the same candidate that lost the first time, results in a similar loss the second time.
But there is at least one NDP member who is speaking truth and acknowledging a harsh reality this morning, former Delta MLA Guy Gentner:
“I’m no longer MLA, and I can say things maybe I couldn’t or was reluctant to speak about before,” the former Delta North representative told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
“Things” like the party has become “unethical”.
As the NDP undertakes a review of the debacle, he wants the party “to take a very close look at itself”. “The problem is the party itself,” Gentner said. “There’s something wrong at the core.”
Putting it more bluntly, the ex-MLA declared: “The party lacks integrity.”
It’s a phenomenal read, and quite telling that Adrian Dix would not respond to Gentner’s assertions, instead sending Mable Elmore to respond to the story.
Guy has it bang on, and on that note, I leave you with his last lines:
“Gentner asserted that unless the party cleans itself up, “it is going to run in the same dirt the Liberals are running in today.”
Saying that he remains a committed New Democrat, he posed this challenge to the faithful: “Let’s get some integrity going in the party.”