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HomeBusinessFederal minister says no bailout for North Vancouver sewage plant project 

Federal minister says no bailout for North Vancouver sewage plant project 

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Bob Mackin 

Good luck, Metro Vancouver, you’re going to need it. 

North Vancouver’s MP, the Liberal natural resources minister, said March 26 that Ottawa would not bail out the $3.86 billion North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

In March 2017, Jonathan Wilkinson announced a $212 million federal grant to the facility, when it was budgeted at $700 million and expected to open in 2020.

On March 22, the regional district’s commissioner, Jerry Dobrovolny, announced the new price tag is $3.1 billion higher and the plant is expected to open a decade late, in 2030. He also said Metro Vancouver would return to senior governments to help ease the regional tax burden.

“It would be a very challenging thing for the province or the federal government to say that we are going to contribute to cost overruns in one case, because you would not be able to say we’re going do that for North Vancouver, we’re not doing it for Halifax or we’re not doing it for Regina,” Wilkinson said after announcing a $490 million contract for North Vancouver’s Seaspan to build new coast guard vessels. 

“So, at the end of the day, the region is going to have to find a pathway through which to manage the incremental costs. I don’t think that they should be looking to the province or the federal government for additional funds.”

B.C. Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth was noncommittal. 

“I hope they fully look into why the overruns,” Farnworth said March 26 in Lynn Valley. “Let’s put it this way, the overrun on that wastewater treatment plant could build SkyTrain to not just the North Shore, but to Port Coquitlam, as well. So it is quite concerning when you see that kind of an overrun, far in excess of anything that we have ever seen in the province.”

In 2017, before that year’s election, the BC Liberal government put up $193 million for the plant. 

Farnworth said the regional district must fully explain to member municipalities, the public and the province what went wrong. 

Metro Vancouver blamed pandemic work stoppages, supply chain challenges, construction material inflation and deficiencies by original designer and builder Acciona. After it was fired in 2002, Acciona sued for $250 million. Metro Vancouver countersued for $500 million. 

Metro Vancouver has not published the report that informed the decision. Chair George Harvie said that would be up to Dobrovolny and Metro Vancouver’s lawyers. 

Acciona remains very busy in British Columbia. It was part of the main civil works contract on the Site C dam, which doubled to at least $16 billion under the NDP. It is also building the $2.83 billion Broadway Subway and the $1.37 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement. Those projects have been delayed, but the NDP government has not updated the cost estimates. 

“I know the company has engaged in a lot of large building projects, not just here, but globally as well,” Farnworth said. “They’re one of the major contractors that do this kind of work. There is a limited number that do. I think what’s important here is to see what’s gone on and how things went so, so off the rails.”

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