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BC Place Roof Info Must Be Shared to Ensure Public Safety: Commissioner

PavCo claimed roof reports contain third-party trade secrets.

Bob Mackin 24 Sep 2014The Pique

North Vancouver-based journalist Bob Mackin, a regular contributor to The Tyee, has reported for local, regional, national and international media outlets since 1990. Find his Tyee articles here.

The province's Freedom of Information watchdog has ordered B.C. Pavilion Corp. (PavCo) to release information about the condition of B.C. Place Stadium's three-year-old roof because there may be a safety risk for fans of the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner's Caitlin Lemiski ruled in favour of partial disclosure of a report by Beauregard Engineering Corp. of Whistler, which details the results of the firm's inspection of certain components of the roof including a description of deficiencies and proposed remedial actions.

PavCo tried to keep the report secret by claiming it contained third-party trade secrets, releasing a severely redacted version to a reporter.

"I have determined that portions of the first five pages of the Beauregard (Engineering) report, which PavCo severed entirely... contain information that discloses information about a risk of significant harm to the health or safety of the public consistent with the requirement (the Act) because the information discloses the risk of a hazard to individuals' physical safety," Lemiski wrote.

"I have no information about whether PavCo has mitigated the hazard. If I had evidence that this risk no longer exists, my decision would be different. Since B.C. Place is open to the public, the requirement of urgency for disclosure 'without delay' is met."

Lemiski ordered PavCo to release these and other documents by Oct. 31.

'You can't hide that information': Simpson

NDP caucus chair Shane Simpson said the Crown corporation should not delay in releasing the information because it must clear the air about ongoing doubts about the roof.

"It raises a very serious question when the privacy and information commissioner essentially is saying there's a significant risk here and you can't hide that information," Simpson said. "It's pretty stunning. How many tens of thousands of people are going to go through that building between now and the 31st of October?"

Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who is responsible for PavCo, was not immediately available for comment.

Arguments in favour of disclosure under the FOI law's Public Interest Paramount override were threefold: The stadium is a significant public asset that was renovated with $514 million in public funds; PavCo may be legally liable if it keeps information secret and someone is injured; and individuals entering the stadium have a right to know if it is safe.

Lemiski's order was the result of a November 2013 written inquiry and stemmed from a FOI request filed in September 2012 for correspondence and reports about damage and repairs to the stadium roof. B.C. Place contractors Beauregard, FabriTec Structures and Hightex were invited to make submissions, but only Hightex did.

The other documents at issue included reports and correspondence by Geiger Engineers, Schlaich Bergermann, Shade Worldwide, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Buckland & Taylor Ltd. Lemiski's order said the documents contain observations about the roof, test results and/or recommendations for remedial work. While she found that some information should remain confidential because of mediation over roof repair costs, portions of letters by Shade and Saint-Gobain must be made public because they contain test results.

"PavCo submits that there is ongoing mediation, the details of which it provided in camera, and that if the information it severed under (the law) were disclosed, it could result in parties to mediation gaining access to confidential information," she wrote. "This, PavCo submits, the details of which are in camera, could lead to a series of events which could result in financial harm to PavCo."

Three leaky summers in a row

Rainwater leaks during the Vancouver Whitecaps' home game on Aug. 30 related to the continuing replacement of grease-damaged roof panels renewed questions about the $514-million project. This is the third consecutive summer that crews worked on the roof to replace fabric stained by grease dripping from the roof support cables. PavCo claims it is not liable for the cost of repairs and that work is expected to continue into November.

B.C. Place is scheduled to host the 2014 Grey Cup on Nov. 30 and the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final on July 5.  [Tyee]

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