Calls for public inquiry into North Vancouver wastewater treatment plant after budget blowout

A New Westminster city councillor is calling for a public inquiry into how Metro Vancouver handled the North Shore’s wastewater treatment plant replacement — which will now cost $3.86 billion. The government won’t say if it will start an inquiry.

A New Westminster city councillor is calling for a public inquiry after the regional district admitted the still-to-be-completed wastewater treatment plant in North Vancouver has seen a budget blowout.

The request comes after the Metro Vancouver Regional District admitted the project has gone more than $3 billion over budget.

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Coun. Daniel Fontaine calls it a “financial fiasco,” adding Metro Vancouver residents need answers.

“This is just simply outrageous. The bill that we’ve been handed, [that] taxpayers have been handed, in Metro Vancouver is almost $4 billion. And that’s, from my perspective, not likely going to be the final tab on this,” Fontaine told CityNews Thursday.

Fontaine believes a public inquiry is needed “to at least bring something positive out of this incredible finance boondoggle.”

“We need a review into what happened and a full audit as to how we got from a $700 million project to a $4 billion project. But more importantly, I’m hoping one of the positive things to come out of this as we have a full and thorough governance review of Metro Vancouver.”

Fontaine fears what will happen with the replacement of the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant — currently budgeted at $10 billion, with a 15-year construction plan.

“I’ve watched what’s happened with that wastewater treatment plant, and the North Shore, we can see that now local residents, they’re going to pay an average of $750 a year for the next, 30 years,” he claimed. “Other residents in Metro Vancouver gonna pay $140 for 15 years.”

“Of course, I’m concerned about what I’m looking at with Iona because we know just based on the track record that Metro Vancouver has had not a stellar record when it comes to these mega projects and keeping costs contained.”

Fontaine believes the regional district should move from appointed officials into elected representatives.

“We have an antiquated, older governance style at Metro Vancouver, and it’s time for a review,” he explained. “The ability for people to actually elect their Metro Vancouver representatives should be on the table as soon as the 2026 municipal elections, so that we can have more accountability and openness, and transparency at that governing body.”

Fontaine believes that there’s not the transparency and accountability that there needs or should be at the regional district, explaining, “They’re unelected and unaccountable.”

“As an organization, Metro Vancouver needs to be more transparent about both of these mega projects if they want regional taxpayers to get on board. Taxpayers have every right, particularly when so much has gone wrong with the North Vancouver project, to demand transparency and accountability. Transparency, accountability, and competence are what taxpayers expect, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

“I think taxpayers and residents deserve more.”

Fontaine says this project has one of the largest cost overruns, on a percentage basis, of any mega project in B.C.

In a statement, Metro Vancouver commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny says the regional authority struck a task force to review its options to finish the wastewater project, calling it a “rigorous process completed during closed meetings due to ongoing litigation with the previous contractor.”

Last week, he said that despite the cost overruns, cancelling the project is simply not an option because the wastewater plant they have is from the 1960s and is past its service life.

With files from Kier Junos.

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