Filtration plant cost overruns 'outrageous' says Chair Jackson

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Yesterday we reported the cost overruns on the Seymour-Capilano water filtration project were skyrocketing. Today, Metro Vancouver Chair Lois Chair Jackson finally broke her silence and weighed in with her perspective on the $220,000,000 cost overruns that occurred on her watch.

One would have expected an apology to taxpayers? A tad of remorse perhaps? Nope. Jackson's head-in-sand response to the Vancouver Province newspaper went something like this:

"It's just quite outrageous"

You can say that again Chair Jackson. We agree, the fact this questionable public project is now terribly behind schedule, and massively overbudget is simply 'outrageous'. However, Jackson's bizarre comments only serve to demonstrate how out of touch she is with Metro Vancouver taxpayers.

Who is she outraged with? Herself? The contractor? Metro Vancouver staff? It's really hard to tell from the interview she gave with the Province which was most certainly was a head scratcher.

So will taxpayers actually be on the hook for the additional $220,000,000 dollars to complete this massive infrastructure project?

"We have to go through some steps to see if we can recover the money," says Jackson

The "steps" Jackson refers to is a costly legal battle with contractor Bilfinger Berger Canada. There are certainly no assurances that Metro Vancouver will win this court case against the private sector contractor. If they do lose, taxpayers are on the hook for the whole cost overrun.

We also learned today that Jackson intends on going cap-in-hand to the Province and Federal government asking them for an additional $110 million to purify the water at the Coquitlam water reservoir. Hold on to your wallets folks, now it's time for another pristine water supply to get the Brita treatment.

For the third time, we at are calling upon Jackson to do the right thing and step aside to make way for someone like Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts to take over. Perhaps then, the Vancouver region will finally get the kind of leadership it so desperately needs. 


Although Lois may have some baggage, you can not hang this Metro project on her. It was initiated in the dictatorial McCallum era, and if you really want to find the cause look no farther than Mr. Carline.

As if we needed more proof, this shows why we should just pat the mayors on their collective heads and send them on their way to do something really important, like cutting ribbons.

Incompetent, petty-minded, muni-centric, feint-hearted, these people cannot solve the most basic problems, it seems. Oh, what's $200 million? How did you miss that one, kids? Dithering dumdums--thy name is GVRD (or Metro Vancouver or whatever the hell they're calling themselves).

Add to that a Metro staff that kill more trees putting together more 'Reports to Nowhere' than possibly any other bureaucracy in Canada. And that's saying something. Stasis, and more back-room wrangling, to what purpose I ask? It's as if they have an allergy to actually finishing anything (I chortle as I read a report in this weekend's Financial Times that says that engineers waste about 20% of their time on writing reports that no one ever reads. Oh, the GVRD BOD reads their staff reports---I've seen their lips moving...).

You can always count on the pols to fall asleep at the switch as these programs drag on intermitably. Attention spans of gnats, unable to grasp or hold onto presentations from meeting to meeting (o, how amusing to hear them ask the same questions over and over and over again about an issue, during each and every committee meeting! A roomful of people with ADHD!)---these are the people who, remember now, cannot come to consensus on much of anything, including regional policing, because hey, the status quo sure is working well, eh, Diane, Joe and Pamela? What a joke.

I am afraid the picture you have accompanying this story is slightly off. Better to take the head out of the sand, and place it up it's own ass, where it can usually be found.

THAT would be a more fitting tribute to your Metro Vancouver Board of Directors.

How unfortunate that Daniel Fontaine would resort to two old canards in his City Caucus tirade concerning the Seymour Capilano Water Filtration Project. “There are many who believe…” Mr. Fontaine says, (although he doesn’t identify who they are other than himself), that filtration is not needed for Metro Vancouver drinking water. That group does not include the region’s Medial Health Officers, for example, who pressed for and have supported construction of the plant and who are a little more credible in terms of their opinions on the issue than most. And I suspect they don’t include many of the some two million residents of the region who were inconvenienced by severe turbidity (the solution to which is filtration) in their drinking water that occurred during heavy rainstorms that struck Metro Vancouver in November of 2006. Metro Vancouver is, indeed, blessed with exceptional source water and closed watersheds that are the envy of most metropolitan areas of the world, but that doesn’t mean improvement should not be sought where necessary and feasible.

And to suggest that releasing the approval for additional funding necessary to complete the tunnels on a Friday was an attempt to hide the issue is either simply ignorant or purposefully dishonest. For decades, Metro Vancouver’s Board of Directors has met on Fridays for their monthly meetings. The decision to approve the funding was, surprise, made late morning of last Friday, in public as required, and by 1:30 that afternoon, a media release was issued announcing that decision. Hard to see how that is anything but abundantly transparent.

Is the tunnels portion of the project significantly over-budget. Absolutely. Metro Vancouver fully intends to recover those additional costs from the original contract, Bilfinger-Berger, whose refusal to proceed with the work on the basis of its contract precipitated the increase and the delay in completion in the first place. Perhaps a little less vitriol and a little more fact would lend some relevance to City Caucus in regards to this matter. Residents, businesses and stakeholder groups can learn more about Metro Vancouver at its website. Meeting agendas – including reports and proposed resolutions – are posted in advance of the meetings. City Caucus writers and other members of the public are welcome to attend those public meetings.

Meeting agendas are often only posted at the last minute, the day before meetings---the better to keep the riff-raff at bay since, I believe, delegations have to register about three days before the proceedings.

Check out!

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