British Columbia

Don't expect feds to pay for massive cost overruns of wastewater plant: North Vancouver MP

"I would caution Metro Vancouver in looking for additional contributions from the federal government," said North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson of the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant project.

Price of the beleaguered North Shore Wastewater Plant project has ballooned from $700M to almost $4B

A white man wearing a black puffer jacket and blue glasses speaks to a mic while shrouded by trees.
North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson told local taxpayers that Metro Vancouver should not expect the federal government to provide more funds for a beleaguered wastewater treatment project. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The member of Parliament for North Vancouver has told local taxpayers not to expect upper levels of government to kick in any more money for the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant project.

Last week, Metro Vancouver revealed the price tag of the project had ballooned to $3.86 billion, more than six times the $700 million it was estimated to cost in 2017.

"I would caution Metro Vancouver in looking for additional contributions from the federal government," said Jonathan Wilkinson, who is also the federal minister of energy and natural resources. 

"At the end of the day, the region is going to have to find pathways to manage the incremental costs. I don't think they should be looking to the province and the federal government for additional funds."

Speaking at an event on the North Shore Tuesday, Wilkinson said Metro Vancouver, which is responsible for the project, needs to be more transparent about what went wrong.

WATCH | Jonathan Wilkinson on wastewater plant price tag ballooning: 

North Vancouver MP on skyrocketing cost of local wastewater plant

2 months ago
Duration 0:59
Jonathan Wilkinson comments on North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant price tag ballooning from $700 million to around $4 billion.

"On a go-forward basis ... it will be important that Metro Vancouver can be very forthright with people who live particularly on the North Shore about how we went from something that was less than $800 million, to now something that is close to $4 billion, and that is going to add a significant amount of costs to the taxpayer."

The plant was originally supposed to be finished in 2020 but the main contractor, Acciona, was fired in 2021 and the project stopped after a series of setbacks.

When the wastewater plant was first announced, the federal and provincial government announced $405 million in joint funding, given the original $700 million budget.

Last week, Metro Vancouver commissioner and chief administrative officer Jerry Dobrovolny announced the updated $3.86 billion budget and said construction was set to begin anew — with a revised completion date of 2030.

According to Metro Vancouver, the new price tag means households within the North Shore sewerage area will be on the hook for an average tax increase of $725 annually for the next 30 years. The average cost does not compound over the 30-year period.

A construction site with a crane in the background and heavy equipment with a sunset in the background shows the very early stages of the building of the plant.
A photo taken in the winter of 2021 shows construction underway at the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant. (Submitted by Acciona)

'This isn't SpaceX'

District of North Vancouver Coun. Catherine Pope said taxpayers deserve answers.

"This isn't Site C. This isn't Elon Musk's SpaceX. This is a plant for the North Shore that processes poop," said Pope, speaking on the CBC's The Early Edition.

Making matters worse, said Pope, is that information about Metro Vancouver's oversight and due diligence on the project is not publicly available, amid competing lawsuits.

Acciona is suing Metro Vancouver for $250 million in damages and unpaid bills after it was removed from the project. Metro Vancouver is counter suing Acciona for $500 million.

A white man wearing a suit speaks in front of a topographical map.
Metro Vancouver commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny says the regional district is working on a long-term financial project due to the cost increases for the project. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Pope has called for a forensic audit of the project amid the cost overruns.

"From start to finish, this project has been cloaked in secrecy," she said.

Dobrovolny said Metro Vancouver is working on a long-term financial plan to illustrate to the provincial and federal governments the need for financial support. 

Metro Vancouver is the federation of 21 municipalities, one electoral area and one treaty First Nation in the Vancouver region that is responsible for delivering services like drinking water and waste treatment to the area.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karin Larsen

@CBCLarsen

Karin Larsen is a former Olympian and award winning sports broadcaster who covers news and sports for CBC Vancouver.

With files from Joel Ballard