Sunday, November 21, 2010

The New Democrats, and shadow tolls on the Sea to Sky

Two pieces worth your attention.

Ian Reid writes thoughtfully on the NDP's prospects in the aftermath of the odd weekend party meeting that saw Carole James win the support of voting members of the party's governing council - while 11 New Democrat MLAs are still apparently dissatisfied with her leadership. Read him here.
Their next moves will be critical. The MLas can find a way to work with the party, which is what voters likely expected when they elected them. They can quit. Or they can snipe from within. The Liberals are certainly cheering for the latter two options.

And Laila Yuile has been establishing, without a doubt, that the deal for the private companies who did the Sea to Sky Highway improvements and maintain the road includes payments based on "shadow tolls." Part of their annual payment depends on road use, but instead of collecting from drivers the province pays a toll on users' behalf.
That's consistent with the government's policy that there will be no direct tolls on roads for which there is no non-toll alternative. (Though the skyrocketing ferry fares violate that principle.)
What makes this fascinating is the Transportation Ministry's bizarre insistence that there are no shadow tolls, when as Yuile sets out, the companies are absolutely clear that their payment does include the tolls.


Norm Farrell said...

Even if the shadow tolls are defensible from a business point of view, the P3 process is indicted for encouraging fraud and misinformation by pulling the down the curtain of privacy over the public's business.

If fraud did occur in one of these multi-billion dollar construction projects, it would be hidden because public disclosure of much information is prevented.

Doing massive public deals in private provides opportunity for fraud. Doing it with the construction industry, where organized crime and dishonest corporations are plentiful, almost assures crime.

Although government claims that private business operators need secrecy, that is not true. The secrecy is because government does not want the terms known. In this Whistler highway case, government was able to under-report the true cost.

DPL said...

If Ms James was a real leader she would invite the MLA's in, one at a time, with no staff and especially without Moe in the room and hammer out some sort of compromise. Those of us who have supported the party, for many years deserve better than her way of "Shut up and Row" or leave. If 11 plus the one already gone, get together outside the tent, the one looking non leader like would be her. Right now the NDP are treading water, waiting for the next shoe to drop.Wake up Ms. James, you are another MLA put in position by the rest of the MLA's.You represent one riding, just like the others. You don't have the divine right of Kings and screw up enough and you will be unemployed.

Anonymous said...

Paul,thank you for the mention to your readers! This story has just gained national attention with the Globe and Mail,courtesy of Mark Hume,who has done an excellent job of getting answers -albeit creative ones-from those who are making much more than stated in the article, as well as the government.

Discussion has been rampant in the short time the article has been posted,and I must say, Norman,you deserve some kind of award for being the first person to post and refute the refuters!

Anonymous said...

How are P3 'commitments' accounted for by the province's Ministry of Finance?

How does GAAP treat future P3 contracted commitments?

Does BC use GAAP to account for future P3 contracted commitments?

How does GAAP treat variable road use obligations?

Laila Yuile has really opened a can of worms.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, anonymous for recognizing those important questions.They are at the crux of why I am pushing so hard on this.The liberals have pushed the province into a big problem down the road, because none of this P3 debt is on the books, because- and here again the crafty wording- it is not technically " our debt".

Since the private partner puts up the money, the province uses that to defer the debt- if that debt was truly counted now, the provincies finances would be far worse than anyone could stomach.

What alarms me right now, is not how the majority of the local media have turned their heads to this story, but how the NDP have not taken an interest in dealing with this. From correspondance I have been privy to, it is clear to me that Harry Bains, the transportation critic, relies on other people to assist him in understanding how these agreements work, and more importantly, that he doesn't understand the issues you have pointed out.

The silence from the opposition is deafening. People are beginning to wonder if perhaps they don't care,simply because they don't comment.