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

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

Here is an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of Vaughn’s column, here:

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


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

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

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

  1. How very astute of Mr Palmer to actually do the math and write an article exposing the lie that is the Clark government.
    One question: Where were you, Vaughn, with examples of the multitude of Liberal lies under Christy Clark BEFORE the election? And will you vanish into rarified MSM thin air again before the next election or are we seeing a new, improved Vaughn Palmer who will actually hold the government’s feet to the fire? I’m not holding my breath because, frankly, I have not been impressed by your articles in recent years.
    Thanks for the info Laila.


    1. It’s been the status quo for as long as I’ve been reading Palmer and Smyth’s columns that as if by magic, these two ‘legislative reporters’ become Christy’s (or the BC Liberal leader du jour’s) BFF about a month before any given provincial election.

      I wonder if it has something to do with money.


  2. The final cost only was 25% higher than expected and only two years late.
    For this Government that is on time and budget.
    We get the Government we deserve. Remember that in 2016


    1. Even if a had a list of 500 reasons the BC Libs should go, it wouldn’t matter in the next election if the NDP don’t get it together. A lot can happen between now and then.


      1. don’t count on the NDP getting it together. people might want to look at independants running for office or they can run for the Green Party. At the rate things are going in this province the citizens could become an endangered species. The Green Party can figure out how to save them. Certainly with one in five children living in poverty, their health is endangered. Run a campaign as if they were the endangered species. Then there are those living on a disability pension. Iif they are in receipt of CPP disability the provincial government deducts every extra nickel they receive, thus reducing people to grinding poverty. If people were permitted to collect their CPP pension and their B.C. disability pension, they might be able to feed themselves. So we could say the disabled are an endangered species.

        As your blog has so well documented there have been cost over runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars for the Vancouver Convention centre, the roof on B.C. Place, the south perminter road, etc. If that money would hve been used to build a new Children’s Hospital and then adequately staffed it, it would have been money well spent.

        There may be new bridges and highways but when you get to the hospital, they still may not be able to admit you because there isn’t any room and inadequate staff. So the bridges and roads might make better photo ops, it doesn’t help you while you are laying on a stretcher trying to get into a hospital.

        They built a new bridge to Surrey, but when you get there, there are very everyday problems which can’t be resolved by ignoring them.


  3. Again, Laila, you blow me away! This was (another) ‘Fixed Price Contract’. I’m not only Aghast, I’m Speechless too. The only ‘Fix’ here was “I’ll FIX it so you don’t lose your anticipated profit if you’ll ……..” It never used to be like this in the Good Old Days.
    With apologies to Ginter Gaglardi & God!


  4. “No one has the clue yet”? Okay, I read the link. He apologizes like Rob Ford and he gets to the point, unlike Chrispy Clark. But I think the clue flew right over my head. Maybe ‘when you get it up’ I’ll be more perceptive.
    Good for Vaughn for finally picking up on the obvious!


  5. I’ll go with this: “over news one of his top aides and a political ally targeted a mayor with a scheme to tie up traffic in his town as punishment for not supporting their boss for re-election.”

    Are you drawing a line between Christy and Dianne Watts? Christy makes things tough for Dianne, to make Dianne look less favoured as the next premier?

    Good on Vaughn for rising from his sleep. I guess I won’t butn the photo I got of the two of us in the Hope Tim Horton’s in the wee hours of May 14. He was riding the NDP bus… perhaps thinking he was riding with a winner?


  6. I wonder? Does this have anything to do with, Christy refusing to call Legislature? I was also suspicious when, both Christy and Harper prorogued nearly, at the same time. I am weary from wondering, how much more of BC, is going to be handed over to China?

    Remember Christy’s thousands of made in BC jobs? The jobs are not for the citizens of BC, those jobs are for China. Same with Harper and the oil patch. He is bringing foreigners over and training them for, BC mines and the oil patch. Seems, as soon as Harper’s foreigners are trained? More and more Canadians will be laid off. It is said, 300 Canadians were laid off in the oil patch, replaced by Harper’s foreigners. China has already taken, 200 BC mining jobs.


  7. I wouldn’t be surprised if Palmers boss told him to turn the heat up on the Lieberals, because ever since the election, there has not been any taxpayer cash going into the MSM pockets with the end of the jobs plan saturation advertising blitz BS during the election that cost the tax payers in this province many millions of dollars, and since all the MSM is concerned with is cash, and not telling their subscribers about the state of affairs in BC, maybe they figure if they start turning up the heat on Christy and her gang of {——-{s} insert your own description, she might open up the vault and start spending more of the taxpayers cash on more Lieberal BS advertising.


  8. So Vaughn writes a story slamming the libs every once I awhile. Why? What took you so long Vaughn? Have there not been many stories to be investigated and reported on over the past 12 years? Sorry, he lost my trust years and years ago. I don’t believe for a moment that he actually does care about the people in this province. Just another day for Vaughn and Co. Time to stir the pot a bit Vaughn, make it like you are a “reporter”. Right. Sure.


    1. I’m glad he did this column,and not just because he pointed to my post. He certainly didn’t have to – had the Libs gotten their way on this one, no one would have been the wiser…

      I’m starting to find out what it’s like being ‘media’. Sometimes you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I just do my thing and am happy when others find it relevant and share it.


  9. How about this little cost overrun that the mainstream media have ignored, Gordon Campbell’s Canada Line.

    Initial cost estimate $1.3 billion.
    Final cost to date, $2.3 to $2.7 billion.
    As costs spiraled out of control, the scope of the project was so reduced that the Canada line has 40m to 50m station platforms and only can accommodate 40m long trains. The Canada Line was at maximum practical capacity, 7,500 persons per hour per direction when completed.

    The cost to increase the Canada line’s capacity is estimated at $1 billion to $1.5 billion.

    The operating consortium running the Canada Line are guaranteed $100 million annually from TransLink to operate the metro.

    “Canada Line is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TransLink. It is responsible for overseeing the procurement, construction and implementation of the Canada Line, a rail-based rapid transit line that will link Richmond, Vancouver International Airport and Vancouver. The project is a public/private partnership (“P3”). SNC and Serco Group plc (“SNC/Serco”) were the successful joint proponents in the competitive process for selecting a contractor to design, build, partially finance, operate and maintain the Canada Line. Both Canada Line’s procurement documents and SNC/Serco’s initial expression of interest and proposal documentation contemplated a third-party concessionaire that would be a separate legal entity and special purpose vehicle for the purposes of the Agreement. With the finalization of the documentation in July 2005, SNC transferred its interests in the project to InTransit BC as the concessionaire.7 The Concession Agreement, executed on July 29, 2005 among Canada Line, TransLink and InTransit BC, sets out the parties’ rights and obligations regarding the project over 35 years.”

    This works out to about $3.5 billion over 35 years.

    Even though the Canada Line P-3 did not assume any risk on the project as a private consortium the relation ship between the Canada Line Concessionaire and BCRTC/TransLink is mostly free of freedom of information requests.

    So the real cost of the Canada Line, over 35 years is over $6 billion (not including debt servcing which may make the final cost almost $8 billion), yet we have no firm documentation of the real cost. Any way you look at it, the Canada Line is scandal in waiting, but the MSM and especially Bill Good still chortle that the Canada line is success story.


  10. I know two people so far that have tried to get a hard figure for the annual operating cost of the Canada Line and the total cost of construction including debt servicing through freedom of information. Both got the same reply; (paraphrased) Because the operating concessionaire is a private company that both invested in the Canada Line and operates the Canada, as a private company they do not follow under the Freedom of Information Act, thus were not permitted the documents.

    How can the voter attempt to vote in the upcoming TransLink referendum, without knowing the real fiscal liabilities with TransLink; the Canada Line; the Expo and Millennium Line?

    And what about the Compass Card? With TransLink’s very simple 3 zone fare structure there was never any need for the Compass Card, unless that is, if TransLink was privatized. Why I ask? The compass Card does not deter fare evasion, nor increase safety on a transit system, but it is very good at apportioning fares per route used -tap in – tap out. Thus if Translink was privatized, say the Canada Line; the ALRT/ART SkyTrain Millennium and Expo Lines; North Fraser bus services; trolleybus services; and South Fraser bus services, there would already be a fare collection agency via the Compass Card to apportion fares to what privatized service was used.

    So let’s say the Translink referendum fails (see Friday’s Vaughn Palmer), then maybe the province’s real plan is set the stage to privatize TransLink. You heard it here first.


    1. And who do you think it would go to…..? Hmm.

      I hate the third party business interests line for refusing documents. I have gotten that a few times from TIC and on other FOI requests for invoices. You have to word your FOI request very carefully and even then you might end up paying for blacked out or blank paper.


      1. The requests were worded very carefully (one by a university professor), but because the concessionaire is a private company, the FOI office said they were beyond the legislation of the act and therefor immune to FOI’s.

        True story, the late Dez Turner who was a very knowledgeable transit advocate in the 80’s and 90’s, requested a FOI for the cost of the MK1 SkyTrain car, just out of production in favour of the current MK.2 car. After several months and many letters later he was delivered a pile of papers over 12 inches high which over 90% was redacted! Asking the FOI office why sending so much when so much was redacted he got the curt reply that; “the redacted items contained sensitive business information which could hurt sales abroad! And that of a transit vehicle out of production!

        Many transit systems have been privatized around the world and there are many private railway and public transit consortium’s. In fact the Canada Line is all but privatized. I can see a North/South Fraser privatization as well as the trolley and diesel bus operation, leaving the ART SkyTrain system which could be privatized as well.

        I am not saying privatization is good or bad, rather it is an option which path the Liberals seem to be following.


        1. I agree.

          FOI’s are becoming increasingly just a measure of frustration. Recently I was given a fee estimate for an FOI that I submitted, that was over $300. I asked for the calendar for a ministers trip,briefing notes, and info on some particular meetings. Why that would cost over 300 is beyond me. But I was offered his basic calendar at no charge… which did hold some interesting info regardless.

          The third party business interest is valid in some cases, but many times is abused in my opinion. And having known a couple of people who used to be in charge of FOI’s, it is known that at times pressure is put on the people handling the FOI’s to redact more than than the law allows.

          This is without a doubt one of the most secretive governments.


    1. Haha! Not like Christy’s crew doesn’t have a ton of experience with that.. Didn’t Bob do a piece on that?

      No, it’s not the emails…. 😉


  11. How about: “I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover…”?

    That sounds a lot like the situation around here.


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