Ministers in court?
Former B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor may be compelled to testify in a court case brought by an ex-Cambie Street merchant seeking compensation for losses caused by Canada Line construction, a judge ruled yesterday.
Justice Ian Pitfield will decide this morning if Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon can be made to testify as a hostile witness.
When the RAV line – as it was then called – was originally approved it was supposed to be bored tube. This, it was claimed, would mean that there would none of the disruption associated with construction. Many places have experienced disruption when rapid transit is built – subsurface, surface or overhead all cause major issues. “Tube” construction is much more expensive but needs much less surface access. Cut and cover – the method chosen by the Canada line P3 is the most disruptive – but is cheaper for the builder if they do not have to compensate those inconvenienced.
The Canada Line has been built down to a price not up to a standard. This is not unusual for P3 fixed price contracts. They may come in “on time and on budget” but usually this can only be achieved by building much less than the original specification called for. In this case the plans changed once the P3 partner was chosen but of course by then the rush was on. While the proponents (the province of BC) claimed it was not an Olympic project they insisted that it had to be completed well before the games started. The fact that what was now to be built was materially different to what had been approved mattered not at all. Equally, Translink’s approval had only be achieved by the suggestion that the Evergreen Green line would be built concurrently. Of course that was not a solemn and binding contract either – it was a pie crust promise – easily made, easily broken. The then Board of Translink was then replaced by a more compliant “professional” board more likely not to raise awkward questions in public.
I am not going to make any predictions since judges are notoriously fickle. This could go either way. But I do like the timing. It is just the sort of issue that needs to be raised immediately before a provincial election. Actually it would be much better resolved through the constitutional convention of ministerial responsibility – but of course that is thought to no longer apply in British Columbia, which is why people now resort to the courts.