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VANCOUVER The Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) has loaned a staggering $49 million to Maple Ridge to buy-back a failed public-private partnership (P3) project in the downtown core.

What a high price to pay for doing the P3 tango, says CUPE BC President Barry ONeill, referring to the assistance provided by the MFA in Maple Ridges efforts to cut their losses from the scandalous and illegal P3 downtown core development project. A real wake up call for B.C. municipalities.

The loan announcement was made last week at the MFAs financial forum and AGM and represents a third of total debentures issued by the financial authority to all borrowers in the province in this issue.

Not only are [Maple Ridge] district taxpayers on the hook for years to come, but in the end, this expensive effort to recover from a P3 will be carried by the borrowing agency shared by all municipalities in the province, says ONeill.

The district terminated the P3 agreements and decided to acquire the entire town centre project after a legal ruling that charged the deal to be illegal and a damning report, commissioned by the district, was published.

This month, another report commissioned by the district was published. This report was aimed at restoring public trust and establishing accountability. It recommends presenting this report to the Inspector will ensure unbiased consideration of the facts contained within, and a fair decision on whether or not further action is necessary or appropriate.

This most recent report, like the last one, will fall on deaf ears, says ONeill. The Inspector is not independent, but reports to and is controlled by the Liberal Minister and Cabinet. Liberal MLA, Ken Stewart, as a Maple Ridge Councilor, was a strong supporter of this P3 project from day one.

It also appears the Inspector has already made up his mind on the matter. For over two years, CUPE BC has called for the Inspector of Municipalities to hold a public inquiry. Finally on July 14, 2004, CUPE BC was told in an e-mail by Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Womens Services Assistant Deputy Minister Gary Paget that they were not prepared to recommend an inquiry in this situation.

The downtown core project eventually included a six-story office building, a library, an arts theatre, a youth centre, expanded recreational facilities and underground parking.
For more information, please contact: Barry ONeill, CUPE BC President, (604) 916-8444 or Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, (604)291-1940, ext. 240.