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The RAV Line

4 May 2005, TheTyee.ca

THE ISSUE

There have been many controversies associated with the planned Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit line. One important issue is the effect of the public-private partnership on public process. The operating authority TransLink and project overseer RAVCo. have argued that disclosing certain specific plans for the line would jeopardize the bidding process.

Of course, it's complicated

Cambie residents charge that RAVCo. played a bait-and-switch game, touting tunnel-boring as the construction method until last Christmas, even though it was considering disruptive cut-and-cover construction as early as 2002.

The bottom line

Was it necessary to conceal planned cut-and-cover construction on Cambie in order to protect the public interest?

THE ANSWERS

Green Party of BC

Cut and cover wasn't the problem per se, rather it was pretending that this option was not on the table. Critics have described it as a "bait and switch", and we couldn't agree more. This deception did not protect the public interest, but did succeed in misleading the public and media who fell for the succession of lies told by various levels of government. The RAV line has been on the table since at least 1997, when Joy MacPhail and Glen Clark, on behalf of the NDP government, signed a memorandum of understanding with Bombardier to build RAV (we have the document for those who would like to see it). Would citizens who live or work on Cambie have gone for a project that would guarantee the utter disruption of their lives and businesses for many months, if not years? Not. RAVCo and the Liberals played the TransLink board, offering financial carrots along the way to help make the ungainly pill easier to swallow. RAV was, and remains, a bad project that will not solve the transportation needs of the Lower Mainland. Lying about the construction method was merely part of a larger body of lies used to justify a very dubious mega-project.

Democratic Reform BC

We need rapid transit to and from Richmond, but secret agendas and hidden or obscured details never serve the public interest. DRBC supports an open tendering process. The people should have full access to project information, the technology to be used, and the full cost implications. RAV-line will cost at least $1.7 billion (likely more), and the consequences of the decision will be with us for many years. The political spin on the RAV P3 is that the private sector will take the risk. The reality is the public will not be protected from cost overruns. If the line is unprofitable, we're on the hook for the guaranteed profit to the private partner. For a government that claimed to be the most open and accessible in recent years, the RAV experience has been just the opposite. With governments such as the Campbell Liberals, it is easy to forget that we do live in a democracy. Matt Laird, Burnaby North, member DRBC urban transit committee, 604-526-8486 matt@drbc.ca

NDP

The NDP platform mentions RAV as a Liberal preocccupation driven by the 2010 Winter Olympics, and decries the fact that the taxpayer is shouldering the risk if the ridership projections - which many see as wildly optimistic - don't pan out. The platform makes vague promises about supporting light rail and other forms of transit, and mentions accelerating transit development in the northeastern Lower Mainland. The New Democrats say they "would ensure that the Auditor General has the authority and resources to lift the veil of secrecy shrouding contracted-out services and public-private partnerships."

BC Liberals

The Liberals have been quite willing to allow key aspects of public-private partnerships to remain shielded from view on the grounds that openness would jeopardize the competitive bidding processes that are intended to ensure the taxpayer gets value for money. Secrecy has been seen as so critical to this process that the municipal politicians who sit on the TransLink board have been denied even "in camera" access to financial documents on the RAV plan.

 [Tyee]