Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for January 29th, 2009

“Queen of the North”

with one comment

The Vancouver Sun has a lengthy statement by Peter C Ritchie

It begins

Statement by Peter C. Ritchie

January 29, 2009

RE: Foisy vs. BC Ferries (re: the Queen of the North)

If one of your loved ones dies because of negligent actions onboard a British Columbia Ferry, don’t go looking for justice in the province of British Columbia. Unless you are wealthy, you won’t be able to afford Court in B.C.

Because it carries the Vancouver Sun copyright notice I cannot reproduce it here – nor would I wish to as it is not as if it were a Press Release. I have, you may have noticed, been quoting things at length recently, and letting them speak for themselves. In this case I can only trust that you will take the time to read the entire statement. It is extra-ordinarily powerful. And it should have massive political remifications.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 29, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Posted in ferries

Ron Parks finds P3 projects have higher costs, bias and secrecy

with 5 comments

CUPE Press Release

VANCOUVER-In a report released today, B.C.’s most respected forensic accountant, Ron Parks, along with his colleague Rosanne Terhart, find that public private partnerships (P3s) are costly for taxpayers.

They also find a consistent pro-privatization bias in the way that the B.C. government (through Partnerships BC) compares costs when assessing major projects. On top of this, the B.C. government is routinely denying access to critical information, which limits the public’s ability to know that its interests are protected on P3 projects.

Parks and Terhart evaluated four P3 projects: the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre, the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement, the Academic Ambulatory Care Centre (Diamond Centre) and the Canada Line. Based on this review, they find that developing the projects as P3s is more expensive than if they were done publicly.

In the case of the Diamond Centre – they report that the actual nominal cost of a P3 was more than double that of a publicly procured project.

Barry O’Neill, president of the B.C. division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says that this report is clear evidence that the B.C. Liberals have stacked the deck in favour of privatizing the services people count on. “It’s a taxpayer rip-off, plain and simple. The hundreds of millions of extra dollars we pay in what amounts to ‘privatization premiums’ should be used to improve roads, transit, schools and health care,” says O’Neill.

O’Neill says that P3 problems around the world, including the current problems faced by the Macquarie Group to secure financing for the Port Mann Bridge, underscores the fact that privatization is plagued by no shortage of instability and risk to taxpayers. “Add to this the report’s finding that private projects actually cost more and I ask why we would keep going down this road.”

O’Neill says that this should give pause for major projects, like sewage treatment in Greater Victoria, where the Campbell government is advocating a P3.

Parks’ report was commissioned by CUPE BC. Ron Parks and Rosanne Terhart are with the firm Blair Mackay Mynett Valuations Inc.

The full report and a backgrounder can be found at

COPE 491

Written by Stephen Rees

January 29, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Posted in privatisation

“No Gateway Bailout” says Wilderness Committee on Budget Vote

leave a comment »

Wilderness Committee Press Release

January 28, 2009

“If the federal budget allows for spending billions of our dollars on the environmentally and morally bankrupt Gateway project, it will be a tragic mistake that won’t solve our economic and transportation challenges. We will really regret it in the future,” said Surrey resident Jim Shook as he prepared to hand out leaflets calling for “No Gateway Bailout” at Scott Road Skytrain Station.

Until there is clarity about whether the federal government is in fact going to bail out the Gateway project, the Wilderness Committee and residents from around the Lower Mainland are working together to express their concerns about the federal budget. Volunteers will be distributing “bailout bucks” that look like dollar bills but feature pictures of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and BC Premier Gordon Campbell to transit users waiting for over-crowded buses, and entering busy Skytrain stations. The bailout bucks carry messages about financing problems for the proposed Gateway highway and bridge building project asking the question “Do YOU want to be left holding the bill?”

Last week members of the Wilderness Committee, the Livable Region Coalition, the CAW, the Hospital Employees’ Union, the Council of Canadians, the Unitarian Church and various community organizations from throughout the region distributed bailout bucks outside the Vancouver office of Australian investment bank Macquarie Group. The international bank had not met its commitment to finance the Highway 1 doubling and Port Mann Bridge twinning component of Gateway. This event was the beginning of a leafleting drive focusing attention on the federal government’s potential involvement in bailing out the failing project.

“The federal budget as proposed is unclear about whether the federal government will bailout Gateway. To paraphrase Mr. Ignatieff, we will be watching decision-makers from all parties like hawks on this matter, and our volunteers are encouraging people to express their concerns about a bailout of the Gateway project. The Wilderness Committee is interested in seeing any potential bailout funding redirected to improving public transit investment and light rail infrastructure as a Canadian priority,” said Ben West, Healthy Communities Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.

“Volunteers from various groups and concerned citizens will be working in teams at Skytrain stations on both sides of the Fraser River to show their concern about increased carbon emissions, pollution, suburban sprawl and the inevitable increase congestion levels associated with the Gateway project. Now that the private funding has fallen apart they also want to make it clear that they don’t want to pay for Gateway,” added West.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 29, 2009 at 9:33 am

Posted in Gateway