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HomeMiscellanyExclusive: On campaign eve, Bennett and company rubber-stamped a secret Site C contract increase

Exclusive: On campaign eve, Bennett and company rubber-stamped a secret Site C contract increase

Bob Mackin

To nobody’s surprise, BC Liberal insider Brad Bennett is now the ex-BC Hydro chair. 

On his first full day in office, July 19, NDP Premier John Horgan replaced the Christy Clark loyalist with former Powerex executive Ken Peterson. The move was announced July 20.

Christy Clark (left), Brad Bennett, Bill Bennett (no relation) and Jessica McDonald. (BC Gov)

theBreaker can reveal shocking information about Bennett presiding over a pivotal, 15-minute board meeting just before Clark’s huge campaign eve fundraiser.

According to documents obtained under freedom of information, the BC Hydro and Site C project boards met at 4 p.m. on April 10 in a joint session at the Crown corporation’s Vancouver headquarters. The next morning, Bennett reprised his role as Clark’s main traveling supporter and advisor when the election campaign formally began. 

At the joint meeting, Bennett and company received an update on the tension crack that delayed work on the $9 billion dam and they rubber-stamped an increase to the value of the main civil works contract with Peace River Hydro Partners. Dollar figures in the minutes and a confidential board briefing were censored, because BC Hydro fears that public disclosure would cause it financial harm. BC Hydro officials have refused to answer questions from theBreaker.

The board briefing said that the Feb. 11-observed tension crack on the haul road “interrupted the left bank excavation schedule by approximately two and a half months.” It said the delays can be accommodated within the PRHP “contractor float of three months.”

“Recent events such as the left bank tension crack and left bank claim have caused increased pressure on the main civil works contingency such that an additional project contingency draw for main civil works is required prior to the June board meeting. It is anticipated that a draw of (censored) million is required as an interim measure prior to June 2017.”

In December 2015, BC Hydro signed a $1.75 billion contract with PRHP, a consortium of South Korea’s Samsung, Spain’s Acciona and Alberta’s Petrowest. Hydro claimed PRHP was the lowest bidder, but has not revealed the identities of those shortlisted for the biggest public works contract in the province’s history. Though the low bid always looks like a win for taxpayers, the Charbonneau Commission inquiry on construction corruption in Quebec warned that defaulting to the lowest bids on public contracts can open the door to cartels and bid-rigging. 

Records also show that the board resolved on Feb. 22 to increase the amounts to be paid to engineering design contractors Klohn Crippen Berger Ltd. and SNC-Lavalin. The dollar amounts were also censored. 

The quarterly report to the B.C. Utilities Commission for the period ended March 31 said $321.1 million in contingency funds had been allocated from the $391.7 million released to management so far.

But BC Hydro is keeping secret the actual amounts spent on the project. 

Appendix D in the quarterly report to BCUC is labelled “Detailed Project Expenditure” but the copy for the public reads “Confidential Attachment Filed with BCUC Only” in big, bold letters. The quarterly report says the project is on track for November 2024 service, but it warned that the federally approved Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning “could impact labour prices and availability of skilled labour” and lead to cost increases.

Horgan promised to send the Site C project to the BCUC for an expedited review before deciding its fate. 

BC Hydro April 10 Meeting by BobMackin on Scribd