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Auditor-General agrees to look into BC Place renovation costs

Constructions workers install seats in the newly redesigned BC Place stadium in Vancouver on Sept. 29, 2011.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

Auditor General John Doyle says his office will look into the more than $500-million cost of remodelling B.C. Place following a request from New Democratic Party MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert.

"As a result of your request, we will be performing a fact-finding exercise," Auditor-General John Doyle said in a Jan. 16 letter to Mr. Herbert. "In the event that a satisfactory explanation is not readily forthcoming, the Auditor-General may choose to do further work."

Mr. Chandra Herbert wrote to the AG earlier this month to request a "value-for-money" audit of extensive renovations, including a retractable roof to replace an inflatable one that partly collapsed in a snowstorm in 2007.

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Mr. Chandra Herbert based his request in part on a letter – obtained through a freedom of information request from blogger Ian Reid and provided to Mr. Herbert – from B.C. Pavilion Corp. to the City of Vancouver that cited a $100-million figure to refurbish the building.

The provincial government disputes assertions that the project cost more than five times an original estimate, saying this week the $100-million figure was never an official budget and was made at a time when PavCo was considering a different type of roof than the one that was ultimately built.

The province also maintains that it would have cost more than $1-billion to build a new stadium and that the refurbished facility is expected to generate up $100-million in activity a year.

The province says the project cost $514-million, $49-million under a $563-million budget that was announced in 2009.

But before that figure was announced, lower estimates – including a $365-million figure in 2008 – were announced.

Mr. Chandra Herbert, however, says the province has never disclosed a business case for the project and notes that deals that were to have offset the cost – including a naming agreement and a casino development – have not come through as planned.

"I see this as very encouraging," Mr. Chandra Herbert said on Friday of the AG's response. "The project was to my view massively over budget and I think British Columbians deserve answers on why."

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Mr. Doyle's six-year term as Auditor-General ends later this month. He offered to stay on for a second term but was not reappointed. A committee of MLAs is looking at extending his appointment for another two years and is expected to announce a decision next week.

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