Province accused of hiding Massey Bridge documents

Independent MLA Vicki Huntington questions how government can make a $3-billion decision without a paper trail

The provincial government came under fire again Tuesday for blocking the release of information – this time related to its plan to build a new bridge on Highway 99 to replace the Massey Tunnel.

Independent MLA Vicki Huntington raised the issue in the legislature, saying three separate freedom of information requests – two from her office and one from a Delta South constituent – turned up nothing.

“The people of B.C. have a right to expect that a $3-billion decision has a paper trail,” Huntington fumed during Question Period.

Premier Christy Clark announced the new bridge between Delta and Richmond would be built at the September, 2013 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

One FOI request directed to the premier’s office for any background material leading up to that announcement didn’t even turn up Clark’s speech.

A later request from Huntington’s office targeted background material and technical data that would have helped transportation ministry staff decide on which five configuration options for a new bridge or tunnel would go out to public consultation.

Again, “no records were located,” Huntington said in an interview.

A third FOI from Huntington sought the business case or cost-benefit analysis, technical reports and correspondence – any of the rationale that should guide such a critical decision. It turned up nothing she was after, just 15 pages of traffic analysis.

“How can you make a decision to spend $3 billion and have no records to show for that decision?” Huntington demanded. “We have a right to understand how government reaches these conclusions on major projects.”

In fact, there is no business case for the Massey project yet – it was supposed to be complete by the spring of 2014 but is 18 months overdue.

Nor is there an estimated price tag, a decision on whether it will be tolled, or a final configuration, although officials suggest it will be 10 lanes.

The lack of detail hasn’t stopped the province from embarking on preliminary design and geotechnical work in the meantime and promising a construction start in 2017 and an opening in 2022.

Officials said in the spring a project definition report would be released this fall, followed by more consultation.

The government’s response to Huntington in the legislature shed no more light on the project.

Technology Minister Amrik Virk instead repeatedly suggested Huntington had joined the “Say No to the opportunities” party that opposes infrastructure projects.

That prompted the Delta South MLA to say she sometimes wishes she could “bop the members opposite on the head” before being ordered by the speaker to withdraw the comment.

The exchange came 10 days after a damning report by the information and privacy commissioner that revealed the government practice of “triple deleting” emails from servers to thwart FOI searches.

Huntington said it’s frustrating that the government is avoiding its obligation to keep documents related to major decisions and release them as required.

“It’s another illustration that the triple delete caper is alive and well and it’s incredibly disappointing and very destructive to the public’s right to know.”

The government’s rationale for the bridge could face more scrutiny in the months ahead.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer has announced a project audit “to evaluate the quality of evidence to support the decision to replace the Massey Tunnel.”

Transportation ministry rendering of what a new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel might look like.

Just Posted

White Rock breaks temperature record

B.C. city was the hottest in all of Canada

South Surrey church members ‘praying for accused mother… for the whole process’

Lisa Batstone’s second-degree murder trial continues this week in B.C. Supreme Court

City will ask Fraser Health to remove pay parking at SMH, Surrey councillor says

Surrey’s new council has already made parking free on neighbouring city streets

VIDEO: Health and Technology District breaks ground on new building

City Centre 3 is the third of eight planned buildings: Lark Group

Spawning salmon returning to North Delta’s Cougar Creek

It’s early in the season, but the streamkeepers are hopeful it could be a good year for returns

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of tense negotiations between Canada and the U.S. is scheduled for Nov. 30

US official: US intel says prince ordered Khashoggi killing

Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters that ‘the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity.’

Giants serve up major defeat to Pats at Langley Events Centre

On the ice, Vancouver G-Men wrap up home stand with a 10-4 win over Regina Friday night.

Most Read