B.C.’s Transportation Ministry says there is nothing that would force the province to contract with SNC-Lavalin or Bombardier to build new SkyTrain rapid-transit lines in Metro Vancouver because those companies don’t have any patents on the needed components for the system.
The ministry issued a statement Wednesday in the wake of Vancouver City Council’s demand for more information on the two companies and allegations against them. SNC faces charges of bribery and fraud related to work in Libya; Bombardier is facing allegations of corruption and collusion in a World Bank audit.
The statement noted that “automated train lines are popular around the world and that growth has brought more choice in the market.”
The statement also noted that the province uses an open procurement process that has many checkpoints, including “the procurement team, project board or steering committees, legal counsel, fairness adviser, and a relationship-review committee.”
That process does not give the City of Vancouver any power to eliminate a particular bidder.
Vancouver Councillor Colleen Hardwick had argued earlier this week that plans for the city’s next major transit project should be put on hold because SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier are inextricably linked to subway projects in the region and those two companies are now both under a cloud.
But Ms. Hardwick’s request for a pause in any progress on approvals for the line while more investigation is done on the two companies was shot down by her fellow councillors, one of whom questioned whether Ms. Hardwick was motivated more by her opposition to the project than by her concern about the two companies.
Instead, city council agreed it would ask staff to research and report back on whether allegations against SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier could affect the plans for the new Broadway subway.
Ms. Hardwick, of the Non-Partisan Association, has been vocal in her concerns that the new subway line – a 5.7-kilometre $2.83-billion line extending from Clark Drive in the east to Arbutus Street in the west – will damage the west-side neighbourhoods of Kitsilano, where she lives, and Point Grey.
In response to the council decision, a spokesperson for SNC, Daniela Pizzuto, reiterated what the company has been saying for months, which is that its management and practices were significantly changed in 2012 and corruption issues are related to the company’s actions before that date.
Bombardier spokesperson Jessica McDonald responded Wednesday that “Bombardier has been a very reliable transportation partner for Vancouver for more than three decades. Bombardier has supplied over 300 vehicles, including the latest generation of Mark III trains. We value our relationship with our customer and the city of Vancouver, and are in constant communication with them to answer any of their concerns.”
A few mayors in the region had also expressed discomfort with being tied to SNC and Bombardier for the planned SkyTrain projects in Surrey and Vancouver, passing a motion at the TransLink mayors’ council that asked for information to reassure them that there were no automatic commitments.
Ms. Hardwick and a core group of subway opponents have said they worry a Broadway subway will force the city into approving massive density along the line, as well as putting thousands of cheap apartments along the line at risk of redevelopment.
The preamble to her motion noted that Bombardier is being investigated by the World Bank for corruption and that a criminal conviction against SNC could prevent it from bidding on either the first or second phases of the Broadway subway.
Ms. Hardwick said that SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier are inextricably linked to SkyTrain, suggesting that going ahead with the subway automatically means contract with the two.