Premier Christy Clark announcing the plan to replace the Massey Tunnel with a new bridge in 2013.

Province accused of hiding Massey Bridge documents

Independent MLA Vicki Huntington questions how government can make a $3-billion decision without a paper trail

The provincial government came under fire again Tuesday for blocking the release of information – this time related to its plan to build a new bridge on Highway 99 to replace the Massey Tunnel.

Independent MLA Vicki Huntington raised the issue in the legislature, saying three separate freedom of information requests – two from her office and one from a Delta South constituent – turned up nothing.

“The people of B.C. have a right to expect that a $3-billion decision has a paper trail,” Huntington fumed during Question Period.

Premier Christy Clark announced the new bridge between Delta and Richmond would be built at the September, 2013 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

One FOI request directed to the premier’s office for any background material leading up to that announcement didn’t even turn up Clark’s speech.

A later request from Huntington’s office targeted background material and technical data that would have helped transportation ministry staff decide on which five configuration options for a new bridge or tunnel would go out to public consultation.

Again, “no records were located,” Huntington said in an interview.

A third FOI from Huntington sought the business case or cost-benefit analysis, technical reports and correspondence – any of the rationale that should guide such a critical decision. It turned up nothing she was after, just 15 pages of traffic analysis.

“How can you make a decision to spend $3 billion and have no records to show for that decision?” Huntington demanded. “We have a right to understand how government reaches these conclusions on major projects.”

In fact, there is no business case for the Massey project yet – it was supposed to be complete by the spring of 2014 but is 18 months overdue.

Nor is there an estimated price tag, a decision on whether it will be tolled, or a final configuration, although officials suggest it will be 10 lanes.

The lack of detail hasn’t stopped the province from embarking on preliminary design and geotechnical work in the meantime and promising a construction start in 2017 and an opening in 2022.

Officials said in the spring a project definition report would be released this fall, followed by more consultation.

The government’s response to Huntington in the legislature shed no more light on the project.

Technology Minister Amrik Virk instead repeatedly suggested Huntington had joined the “Say No to the opportunities” party that opposes infrastructure projects.

That prompted the Delta South MLA to say she sometimes wishes she could “bop the members opposite on the head” before being ordered by the speaker to withdraw the comment.

The exchange came 10 days after a damning report by the information and privacy commissioner that revealed the government practice of “triple deleting” emails from servers to thwart FOI searches.

Huntington said it’s frustrating that the government is avoiding its obligation to keep documents related to major decisions and release them as required.

“It’s another illustration that the triple delete caper is alive and well and it’s incredibly disappointing and very destructive to the public’s right to know.”

The government’s rationale for the bridge could face more scrutiny in the months ahead.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer has announced a project audit “to evaluate the quality of evidence to support the decision to replace the Massey Tunnel.”

Transportation ministry rendering of what a new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel might look like.

Just Posted

Cloverdale Toastmasters celebrate 25 years of learning and laughter

Cloverdale club is a high achieving, yet laid-back Toastmasters group

McCallum’s canal pitch took Surrey councillors by surprise

City government has more important issues pressing than building a canal, councillors say

Crime Stoppers urges Lower Mainland residents to check these 9 safety items every night

Home security tips demonstrated at Cloverdale house on Wednesday

Surrey RCMP conducting drug-related search warrant

Traffic closed in both directions on 128th Street, between 64th and 66th Avenue

Queen Elizabeth students hit $100K in donations to Surrey Hospital Foundation

Secondary students have been raising funds for a decade through the Roots & Rhythms event

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

B.C. man faces deportation over father’s honour-killing conviction

Father lied to immigration, was later acquitted of charges in Jassi Sidhu’s murder

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

Men caught with illegal gun near Burnaby elementary school

They were sitting in a parked car near Cameron Elementary

Home care for B.C.’s elderly is too expensive and falls short: watchdog

Report says seniors must pay $8,800 a year for daily visits under provincial home support program

B.C. ‘struggling’ to meet needs of vulnerable youth in contracted care: auditor

Auditor general says youth in contracted residential services may not be getting support they need

Pair of B.C. cities crack Ashley Madison’s ‘Infidelity Hotlist’

Data from the website reveals Abbotsford and Kelowna hottest spots for cheaters

Most Read