North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant won’t get more federal funding: MP

Metro Vancouver is moving forward with construction of the North Shore wastewater plant, even though the budget has ballooned to nearly $4B. But is cancelling the project a realistic option?

The Metro Vancouver Regional District shouldn’t expect any more money from the federal government to cover the ballooning cost of the new North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Last week, it was revealed the estimate had increased from the initial figure of around $700 million to $3.86 billion due, in part, to a switch in contractors, increased construction costs, and inflation.

North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson, who serves as the federal minister of Energy and Natural Resources, says the cost overrun is a problem for Metro Vancouver to solve.

“That is not the responsibility of the federal government. They clearly have to meet regulations with respect to water quality coming out of that plant — there are both federal and provincial. But, ultimately, the management of that plant and the management of the process of construction is the responsibility of the region,” he said Tuesday.

“I would caution Metro Vancouver in looking for additional contributions from the federal government. We have municipalities across the country that are actually developing wastewater systems to meet the federal, provincial regulations, in terms of water quality. We expect that when they actually do the design work and come to us with a cost estimate, to which we contribute, that that’s a reasonable cost estimate.”

That being said, Wilkinson says he has not received a request for additional funding from Metro Vancouver.

He notes a bailout would set a dangerous precedent.

“It would be a very challenging thing for the province or the federal government to say that we are going to contribute to cost-overruns in one case because you would not be able to say we’re going to do that for North Vancouver and we’re not doing it for Halifax, or we’re not doing it for Regina. So, at the end of the day, the region is going to have to find pathways through which to manage the incremental cost,” Wilkinson explained.

How MVRD could cover the increased cost

In an update on March 22, Metro Vancouver Regional District Commissioner and CAO Jerry Dobrovolny said the new estimate would likely lead to an increased average cost to people on the North Shore. He said the region could be saddled with additional costs for up to three decades, adding locals on the North Shore would likely pay for this through an annual levy.

“Some of the work is still to come. Next month, we have our board budget workshop where the board will give us direction for next year’s 2025 budget and the new … five year plan,” Dobrovolny said, noting how much each household will pay each year will partly depend on the budgets to come.

However, in rough numbers, he said the amount required to be collected per household on the North Shore would be “about $725 per household, per year, for the 30 years.”

“That’s the magnitude of $3.86 billion translated into a per-household cost per year. But again, we don’t need the $3.86 billion tomorrow or this year. And so there’ll be a ramp-in period as the cash flow is required. So it’s from $0 to $725 over some number of years,” he explained.

Once complete, the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is set to serve more than 300,000 residents and businesses in the city and district of North Vancouver, and the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

The facility is supposed to replace the Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant, which has been operating since the 1960s and is out of its service life.

-With files from Kier Junos

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