No records found backing the B.C. government's Massey Tunnel decision

Today in Question Period, I asked the government about a number of freedom of information (FOI) requests on the decision to replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge: Each of the requests received a 'no records' reply.

The response from the Minister for Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services was less than inspiring.

The Massey Tunnel replacement will cost taxpayers at least $3 billion and should be based on detailed documentation and sound analysis. The fact that FOI requests to both the Premier’s office and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure turned up no technical reports, cost analysis or business case information that supported the decision is concerning.

One would hope a decision to spend $3 billion would have a paper trail of some length. There is a trend in the way government handles FOI requests that is turning public information into an endangered species.

While I certainly do recognize the need for a crossing of the Fraser River, my concern is that it be done in a way that is open and transparent, and above all, fiscally responsible and prudent.

You can watch my questions to the minister below. I have also included a timeline of the FOI requests to give a general overview of the issue below the video. 

 

 

TIMELINE

November 22, 2013: My office files an FOI request with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for “Any and all preliminary technical, engineering, environmental and site preparation reports or briefing documents containing analysis of potential future options for the George Massey Tunnel transit corridor. Documents should include but not be limited to the business case of the five options discussed in the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project consultation process. Timeline: January 1, 2012 to [November 22, 2013].”

January 13, 2014: My office receives 15 pages of generic traffic analysis for the Massey Tunnel area, along with links to public documents and an explanation that “A significant amount of work is going into developing the scope and business case for this important project.”

  • There was no business case for any of the five options presented for consultation.

January 28, 2014: My office files a follow-up FOI with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure: “Regarding the George Massey Tunnel Replacement process: All discussion including emails or other records which mention potential options under consideration for presentation in Phase 2 of the public consultation; Any and all discussion with stakeholders including Port Metro Vancouver, the Gateway Council and consulting firms, records should illustrate the decision-making process that predicated the selection of each of the five options submitted for public consultation; The preliminary technical work referenced in the Phase 2 Consultation Summary Report, not including traffic analysis; Any and all records pertaining to costs related to the removal of the Massey tunnel. Date range is January 1, 2003 to May 14, 2013.”

March 11, 2014: My office receives a response from the government. “A review of files indicates that records are either non-responsive … or are publicly available.” The Ministry of Transportation provides links. The records response implied there were no emails mentioning the options under consideration, which beggars belief. The response also implies there was no discussion with stakeholders about tunnel replacement options for a decade, between 2003 and 2013. The Ministry commented that most of the development of the five possible options was done through “technical working sessions,” but records were not provided.

April 2014: Delta resident Ian Robertson submits an FOI to the Premier’s Office for “materials such as documents, data, analysis prepared for the premier to allow her to determine and to announce that the Massey Tunnel would be replaced by a bridge over the Fraser River.” You can read his recent article in the Delta Optimist here.

June 2014: Ian Robertson receives a response: “Although a thorough search was conducted, no records were located in response to your request.”

 

Massey Tunnel FOI - No Records from Premier's Office by VickiHuntingtonMLA

Massey Tunnel FOI Response (1) by VickiHuntingtonMLA

Massey Tunnel FOI Response (2) by VickiHuntingtonMLA

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