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British Columbia’s decision to include controversial Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin as one of the three bidders for Vancouver’s Broadway subway didn’t surprise local mayors who have expressed concern about the company.

But they hope there will be a lot of scrutiny of the company’s bid to build the 5.7-kilometre, $2.83-billion extension of the SkyTrain line from the current terminus near Clark Drive in east Vancouver to Arbutus Street on the west side. They are also relieved there appears to be other strong bidders.

“At this point, there’s no moratorium on doing business with the company, so I knew there was a high likelihood they would be shortlisted,” said Mike Little, the mayor of the District of North Vancouver.

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He is one of several mayors and councillors in the region who have publicly expressed concern about whether TransLink and the province are being locked into doing business with a company that they say has had a problematic past.

Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin is facing a trial on criminal corruption charges in Quebec and a possible federal prosecution. The World Bank imposed a 10-year ban on the company in 2013 because of bribery issues in Libya. Company officials have repeatedly said in the past year that all of its problems occurred prior to 2012 and that it has new management and policies in place.

At both the TransLink mayors’ council and Vancouver City Council, there have been motions asking for reassurance that committing to a subway for Broadway doesn’t mean being tied to SNC-Lavalin as the provider. They’ve been reassured by engineers and TransLink’s chief executive officer that SNC doesn’t hold any kind of proprietary technology for the SkyTrain line that will be built.

Mr. Little said he was relieved to see two other large consortia are also included as authorized bidders for the project. “I’m glad it looks like there is other credible groups.”

White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker also said it was “probably inevitable” that SNC would be on the shortlist, but he also hoped the province would scrutinize bids carefully and take into account the problems SNC has had elsewhere.

The province announced the three groups allowed to bid would be:

  • Acciona-Ghella Joint Venture, a group of companies that includes Spain-based Acciona, as well as other Canadian ventures.
  • Broadway Connect, with Spain-based Dragados, Canadian Aecon Infrastructure and others.
  • West 9th Partners, a collection of SNC-Lavalin affiliates.

The bid winner will be announced in mid-2020.

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