Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Convention Centre All Over Again?

Taking a lead from Yogi Berra, the BC government is embarking on yet another infrastructural program outside of the P3 model. The Port Mann Bridge was supposed to be a Public-Private Partnership (P3), as was the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion. In both cases, the risk, financial or otherwise, was too great for a private sector company to take on. For Olympian reasons, the government forged ahead with the convention centre. That was a mistake.

The Convention Centre wasn't the first example of government mismanagement, nor will it be the last. Why? Because previous examples have been thrown down the memory hole.

When the government built the Coquihalla Highway, it decided to “fast track” it to have it open for Expo ’86. The original $250 million cost ballooned to almost $1 billion. The massive cost overrun resulted in an inquiry that said the government’s attitude toward the public and the legislature bordered on contempt.

People tend to remember the good things - a new highway - and forget the bad things - massive outrage at the cost overruns and the legacy of debt these projects bring.

If government were a private business, it would have been forced out of the construction game a long time ago. If the private sector is unable or unwilling to take on a project, it is a signal that the project is too risky for the taxpayer as well.

Yes, BC needs a new bridge, but it doesn't need more debt. Review the Port Mann Bridge project.

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