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City of North Van mayor blasts Metro Vancouver over sewage plant fiasco

Mayor Linda Buchanan says there is a lack of fiscal ‘discipline and transparency’ in the regional government
Rows of rebar in front of sludge disgester tower during work on the massive new sewage treatment plant in North Vancouver in March 2021. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan says an announcement by Metro Vancouver of an independent review into costs of the beleaguered North Shore sewage treatment plant falls short of what’s needed to restore public trust in the organization.

And she called for a halt on all major Metro infrastructure projects until problems can be sorted out.

Buchanan released a blistering statement from city council this week following the announcement by Metro Vancouver board chair George Harvie on Tuesday that an independent review of the project will take place.

Buchanan described the sewage plant project as “a mess, years in the making” that “has been driven by a complete lack of financial discipline and transparency.”

Buchanan also criticized the announcement of a project review as too vague, add that any review must be completely independent of Metro and be accessible to the public – something she said has not happened so far.

Until that happens, “all other major capital projects should be paused” said Buchanan.

“Too many decisions have been made behind closed doors, away from the public. Projects of this magnitude that we know will have a serious economic impact on people should be discussed in public whenever possible. The culture of silence must end,” she stated.

Buchanan’s reaction came as the City of North Vancouver council unanimously called for a public review of the project and said it would launch a complaint about how costs for the plant had skyrocketed with no input or control from North Shore municipalities.

Recently, directors of Metro Vancouver’s regional board rejected a request from North Shore board members to share significant costs of the sewage plant’s almost $3 billion overrun.

Instead, directors approved a plan that will see sewage costs for North Shore taxpayers go up by $590 a year for the next 30 years (that’s on top of an average of $484 of current sewage costs). Costs to other Metro communities will rise by between $80 and $150 annually for the next 15 years.

“North Shore residents will pay a disproportionate share of a disaster they did not cause,” said Buchanan, adding “meaningful conversations” with impacted municipalities never took place.

Buchanan added she shares the frustration of residents over Metro Vancouver’s spending and its “lack of transparency.”