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Independent review of $3.86B North Shore wastewater plant coming: Metro Vancouver

The North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is seen during construction in Fall 2020. (Metro Vancouver)
The North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is seen during construction in Fall 2020. (Metro Vancouver)
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Metro Vancouver will initiate an independent review of the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant after estimated costs for the project ballooned to $3.86 billion.

In a statement Tuesday, George Harvie, chair of Metro Vancouver's board of directors, said the board is "acutely aware of the concerns" over the costs of the project.

"Since announcing the cost estimate for the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant Program, we have heard concerns about whether Metro Vancouver is managing costs effectively for the public," Harvie said in a statement. "We take these concerns seriously and as such, as the chair of the board, I am initiating an independent review of the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant Program costs."

The original cost of the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2018 was $700 million and it was expected to open in 2020, but the Metro Vancouver regional district fired the contractor over construction delays in 2021.

Premier David Eby addressed the project during an unrelated news conference this week.

"I've expressed the province's concern a few times now about resolving what drove the cost overruns on the North Shore plant and I think that the time has really come for Metro Vancouver to hire an auditor, independent of them, to dig into this and provide a report to everybody," Eby said on Monday.

Eby said the auditor general could "follow provincial dollars" in a review, but for a full-scale review, Metro Vancouver should bring in its own auditor.

"If the elected officials at Metro Vancouver can't ensure taxpayer accountability for the expenses that are being incurred there, obviously the province will have to step in. But I do have confidence that those elected officials should be able to address these issues," Eby said.

City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan released a statement Wednesday criticizing Metro Vancouver, saying "too many decisions have been made behind closed doors." Buchanan also expressed concerns that the announcement from Metro Vancouver doesn't commit to a review that will be accessible to the public.

"Simply put, this project is a mess, years in the making, and has been driven by a complete lack of financial discipline and transparency," her statement said.

"Yesterday the organization released a statement announcing that they would be initiating an independent review. This statement, however, is vague and falls short in committing to doing the hard but necessary work of examining the systemic issues within the organization that has brought us to this moment."

No details have been provided on who will conduct the review or when it will take place. 

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