BURNABY CUPE BC is calling on the BC government to abandon costly private financing of the Sea to Sky highway and says the P3 arrangement is the real reason the province cant find money within the project budget to build the tunnel under the Eagle Ridge area as requested by West Vancouver council and residents.
The BC Liberal drive to privatize is once again getting in the way of sensible public policy, says CUPE BC president Barry ONeill. The higher costs of private financing, he argues, are the real reason the provincial government doesnt have room within the projects budget to fund a tunnel.
Transportation minister Kevin Falcon announced today that the province will build a 4-lane expansion overland, despite intense opposition and pending legal and environmental challenges from the District of West Vancouver.
CEO of Partnerships BC, Larry Blain, has admitted that private borrowing for this project will cost at least 3 percentage points more than if the money were borrowed directly by the government. Over the 25 year term of the contract that spread will cost taxpayers at least $300 million more.
The government has said the tunnel will cost an additional $40 million to build and $6.5 million per year to operate (total 20 years). Thats roughly $170 million or about half of what the privatized financing will cost, ONeill calculates. If the government gave up on its ideological commitment to a P3 for this project, there would be plenty of room within the budget to afford a tunnel.
ONeill is also concerned for public safety in this P3 arrangement where the same companies who build the new bridges and other highway improvements also have licensed control over them for decades and are responsible to inspect, report on and fix safety problems.
These are multi-decade contracts where the need to generate a profit will be weighed against the public good when safety problems arise, ONeill says. The traveling public should demand that the Ministry of Transportation be put in charge of inspections and safety for this highway, as is the case for all other highways in BC today.
Besides, we dont need to rely on transnational investment bankers to finance and build roads in this province. BC businesses have many years of experience with road-building here. We should call on local businesses to do this work rather than setting up schemes to increase the profits of big international companies. ONeill said. Two of the three short-listed proponent teams are headed by off-shore companies from Germany, Australia and Hong Kong.
West Vancouvers request for a less intrusive and more environmentally sensible tunnel is perfectly reasonable. Our members will do whatever we can to assist West Vancouver in achieving this objective, ONeill said.
CUPE BC, known as BCs official opposition to public private partnerships, is the provinces largest union representing over 70,000 members.
Barry ONeill, CUPE BC President, 604-916-8444,
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, 778-229-0258.