At the end of June, British Columbia Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced that a new P3 bridge spanning Okanagan Lake will cost taxpayers almost 50 per cent more than originally estimated. CUPE’s response? “We told you so!”
“Blind faith and a strong dose of naivety are what B.C. taxpayers need to accept the provincial government’s story justifying the ballooned cost of the bridge,” said CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.
M. Falcon attributed the increase to rising steel and concrete prices. But while building material costs have increased, it hasn’t been by enough to explain the 50 per cent jump.
“We’re expected not to clue in that private business pays more than public institutions when it borrows money to finance projects,” said O’Neill. “It means that taxpayers will be paying SNC-Lavalin, the successful partner in this project, more than we would have if the deal had been financed publicly.”
Over the next 30 years, B.C. taxpayers will pay Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin $179 million to build, finance, operate and maintain the bridge. As CUPE recalls, in the case of Vancouver’s controversial RAV rapid transit P3, the “low” bid from SNC-Lavalin was $343 million more than the fixed budget ceiling set by the TransLink board.
In the same breath as its admission that the Okanagan bridge budget had skyrocketed, the Partnerships BC news release claimed that taxpayers will save money over the decades. There is no concrete evidence of this, as the project’s value-for-money report has yet to be released.
“It’s public money, but we have no way of verifying how it is being spent, how much of it is serving the public and how much of it is serving profit. CUPE BC demands accountability and transparency in these P3 deals,” stated O’Neill, adding that the government failed to include the Okanagan bridge in its list of projects costing more than $50 million published in February’s budget.