NDP seeks value-for-money audit on B.C. Place renovation

VANCOUVER New Democrats are calling on B.C.’s auditor general to undertake a value-for-money audit of the revitalization of B.C. Place after documents revealed that the project cost more than five times its original budget.

“The government has repeatedly claimed that B.C. Place was on budget, and has even gone so far as to claim it was under budget,” said New Democrat arts and culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert. “It took a Freedom of Information request to uncover that this project was, in fact, five times over budget.”

A 2008 letter from B.C. Pavilion Corporation to Vancouver city manager Judy Rogers obtained through a freedom of information request shows that the B.C. Place renovation and roof replacement was originally pitched as a $100-million project, making the final cost a staggering $414 million over this original budget. The final costs could be higher still, as a court case related to the project continues.

The Liberal government has never made the business case for the project public, leaving British Columbians to ask if this was a good use of scarce public dollars, or if there were other ways to improve B.C. Place at a lower cost.

In a letter sent Friday to Auditor General John Doyle, Chandra Herbert asked for a close look at the finances behind the project.

“While the Liberals have acted to limit John Doyle’s term, hopefully he will be able to investigate this critical matter with the attention to detail he has shown on so many other audits,” said Chandra Herbert, noting New Democrats have called on the Liberals to reconsider the decision not to reappoint Mr. Doyle.

The Liberals have repeatedly claimed that the B.C. Place renovation was a success, denying that the costs ballooned well over budget, and downplaying other problems plaguing the project, including a botched $35 million naming-rights agreement with Telus and the unravelling of a controversial plan for a casino expansion adjacent to the stadium – the developer of which was a keen supporter of the retractable roof the government chose to install, despite its expensive price tag.

“This is another example of the Liberal government’s financial mismanagement,” said Chandra Herbert. “They don’t feel they are accountable to British Columbians, despite using our money to finance mega-projects.”

The B.C. Liberal government isn’t up to the challenges facing British Columbia today. Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats are offering change for the better, one practical step at a time.