Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sea to Sky Highway subsidy $12-$15 each vehicle UPDATED

This item below from February 2014 is a good reminder of how behaviour of BC Liberals differs when it involves spending closer to their hearts, heads and wallets than education. This project is also a demonstration of what Liberals mean when they say "on-time and on-budget." It wasn't on budget for the public but probably was for the private companies hidden behind the Sea-to-Sky Highway Investment Limited Partnership.

Liberals are masters of public finance in one particular way. They deliver opportunities to deal makers and deal flippers, with details of all transactions hidden from view. It wasn't long before the first flip happened on the Sea-to-Sky project. This is from a 2010 press release,
"A consortium of Canadian investors led by Fiera Axium Infrastructure Inc. and composed of Fiera Axium Infrastructure Canada L.P., Régime de rentes du Mouvement Desjardins and Nova Scotia Pension Agency (the “Consortium”) today announced it has acquired 100% of the economic interests in the design-build-finance-operate (“DBFO”) concession rights associated with the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project (“S2S”)...from Macquarie Essential Assets Partnership (“MEAP”)...a private unlisted fund established in 2003..."
* * * * *
News item, June 10, 2005:
"VANCOUVER (CP) - The British Columbia government has signed a deal with a transportation consortium to design, build and manage improvement to the Sea-to-Sky Highway north of Vancouver.

"Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said the project is on time and on budget after he announced the $400 million agreement with the S2S Transportation Group..."
In a 2009 letter to the National Post editor, Falcon had more to say about "on time and on budget:"
"Re: Vancouver Should Pay, editorial, Jan. 13.

"This editorial incorrectly stated that the Sea-to-Sky Highway expansion is "behind schedule" and "over budget." The fact is that the $600-million improvement project is both on budget and on schedule..."
A 2012 report by the Auditor General noted the capital costs were $795 million and reminded that the public private partnership was responsible for building only part of the Sea to Sky Highway,
"...the Province (represented by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure) entered into a P3 agreement with the Sea-to-Sky Highway Investment Limited Partnership (a group of private companies) to design, build and finance about two-thirds of the highway improvements and to operate and maintain the entire highway for 25 years. The ministry is responsible for managing the remaining one-third of improvements..."
We shall examine whether or not the project was "on budget" or slightly over the $400 $600 $795 million figure.

From B.C. Public Accounts (Updated for FY 2015):


Fiscal Year Payments Future Obligations Grand Total
2006 $ 7,104,157
2007 $ 25,369,209
2008 $ 36,364,125
2009 $ 53,795,523
2010 $ 58,293,523
2011 $ 63,003,619
2012 $ 66,140,676
2013 $ 58,173,389
2014 $ 53,578,713
2015 $ 55,656,106
2016 $ 51,000,000
2017 $ 50,000,000
2018 $ 50,000,000
2019 $ 49,000,000
2020 $ 48,000,000
2021 & beyond $ 451,000,000
Totals $ 477,479,040 $ 699,000,000 $ 1,176,479,040

From The Vancouver Sun, December 23, 2005:
The portion of the highway between West Vancouver and Squamish has the largest traffic volume, with an average of 13,500 vehicle movements each day.
The Squamish - Whistler traffic counted about 8,000 per day. Averaging the two segments over a full year suggests about 4 million vehicles using Sea to Sky Highway annually. With operating cost around $60 million a year, each vehicle movement costs taxpayers about $15. If traffic has grown by 15%, the subsidy would be about $12. However, the subsidy would be higher if we factored in the cost of the one-third portion of the Highway paid for directly by the province.

So, if you are a taxpayer paying tolls to cross the Fraser River or if you are using one of BC Ferries' profitable routes — Tsawwassen - Swartz Bay and Departure Bay - Horseshoe Bay — take satisfaction in the financial assistance you provide through subsidies to the poor folks headed for Whistler ski hills.

More than three years ago, Laila Yuile wrote excellent pieces on the Sea to Sky Highway. Click HERE to begin looking at her work.

Recommend this post


  1. Thanks, once again for doing the digging Norm.

    I await the outrage from the CTF with bated breath.


    1. Thanks RossK but, please, don't bate that breath for long. I have a feeling you'd be waiting a long, long time for CTF to worry.

  2. Does this include the 5 BILLION $$$ maintenance contract ,over 20 years, as reported by Laila Yuile?

    1. I'm not aware that Laila Yuile reported $5 billion in maintenance contracts for Sea to Sky Highway.

      Apart from road maintenance included in transportation P3's, the province paid these amounts in Fiscal Year 2013 to its main road contractors:

      Yellowhead Road, $86 million
      Mainroad Contracting group, $73 million
      Argo Road Maintenance, $62 million
      Emcom Services Inc, $55 million
      Lakes District Maintenance $35 million
      Emil Anderson Maintenance, $26 million
      Caribou Road Maintenance, $24 million
      VSA Highway, $19 million
      Interior Roads $19 million
      Nechako Northcoast, $9 million
      Capilano Highway, $6 million
      O'Brien Road, $5 million

      That is a total of $420 million in one year and the list probably is incomplete. A lot of public funds are spent on road maintenance and when he looked at contract administration, the BC Auditor General found shortcomings:

      "Roads and bridges have long life cycles that can be significantly
      extended with timely, periodic maintenance. Minimizing cost over the
      life-cycle of these assets requires long-term planning and action across
      the entire road network. The ministry does not yet have in place all
      of the tools necessary to bring this to life. And while the ministry has
      identified safety of the highway network as a key outcome, the impact
      of maintenance activity on safety is not adequately measured.

      This demonstrates one of the problems with paying a concessionaire to build AND maintain an asset that should have a long life. There is a conflict because excellent maintenance programs ensure long life. Shoddy efforts at maintenance ensure the builders are going to be back sooner rather than later.

  3. My stomach churned when I read this fine piece of yours, Norm, and I dwelt on how we islanders are getting screwed on ferry service. Thanks for this.

  4. Maybe it's time we turned back to maintaining and building our roads, bridges, back to a public service paid for by our taxes before governments decided their friends could do it better and fill their own pockets. Roads were in much better shape, didn't cost us an arm and a leg for gas, no tolls.
    Taxes have continuously gone up and now we have carbon tax, gas tax, tolls, translink (useless bureaucracy that costs us way too much money). Yeah, things were better maintained back before the privatization of our "public" roadways/structures. I remember.

  5. The utter corruption of the maintenance costs are very easy to see. The scam works this way. The maintenance company charge an annual fee then bills the government for nay extra, such as snow removal, slides, etc. By getting a set fee, the maintenance company only maintains the highway to the most minimum standards and here is where the profit is made.

    I would wager that Mainroad Howe Sound Contracting LP (and who owns them), company who has the Sea to Sky highway maintenance contract, is making a killing.

  6. Hmmm, maybe I should have a chat with my dentist who lives in Lions Bay and works downtown.

    It looks like his commute, plus that of his wife who manages the dental corp. costs us about 8 grand a year.

  7. Don't forget that most of the Island voted NDP,and like the teachers we've tried to get rid of the LIEBERALS,so bend over boys and take your medicine from the most vindictive bitch there is in politics....

  8. I recall having read somewhere, perhaps Laila or Bob Mackin, that the monitoring devices installed to count cars on the Sea to Sky are duds so the Gov. relies on the numbers supplied by the contractor. Lovely!

    1. And yet auditor said looked ok

    2. Traffic Highway Data for all of BC Traffic Highway Data for southern Vancouver Island and Powell River including Howe Sound

      The BC Liberals have chosen NOT to release the data for the Sea to Sky Highway... the data does exist, by the hour

  9. I had occasion to drive to Squamish on Monday, Sept. 15. Witnessed some heaby looking work being done on a bridge and was stopped for close to 30 minutes on the decent into Brittania Beach due to road work/paving that was in progress. Also noted other sections at various locations along the highway the had been recently paved. It would seem to me that it's a little too soon for such repairs to be needed.

    1. I thought the same thing but I really wonder who is paying for the repaving. Presumably for $60M a year minimum payment to the franchise holder, they're paying for something.


  11. Excellent review, and enough to get one's blood boiling all over again! You only included ONE of Laila's scathing reports. What became of the expose of the 'Crumbling Walls'?
    It IS refreshing to be reminded of other contemptible, corrupt schemes perpetrated on us after all the press the LNG fantasy has received. Do you think they'll try for a P3 on the Site C Dam? How would they implement a 'shadow toll' on it?

  12. It would be fun if a number of people contacted their BC Lib MLA and asked "I drove on the Sea to Sky highway and would like to pay my share of shadow toll. How can I do this?"

    I'm going to do this now. The answer might be fun!



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