Sunday, February 13, 2011

McGuinty Liberals blame the Earth for 60% budget-overrun at Niagara tunnel

Corey Laroque wrote in "Big Becky to surface this spring" (St.Catharines Standard, Feb.9, 2011):

"After four years of underground burrowing, Big Becky is about to surface near Niagara Falls.

Big Becky is the nicknmame of the tunnel-boring machine digging a 10-kilometre tunnel under the city of Niagara Falls that will bring more water to the Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric generators.

"If all goes well, we'll be breaking through the other side in April," said Tom Mitchell, president of Ontario Power Generation, the provincially owned company responsible for producing electricity.

The tunnel will actually be 10,143 metres, starting at the Beck station, underneath Stanley Avenue to Dufferin Islands and into the upper Niagara River.

Big Becky and the 230 workers toiling away underground is about 570 metres from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, excavating is taking place 65 metres underneath the Niagara River, even with where the old Toronto Power company gatehouse is located on the Niagara Parkway." Click photo to read:

Reading Laroque's strory, it is obvious that there isn't much criticism nor analysis about why the Liberals severely under-budgeted this third Niagara Tunnel.
Liberal hack Duguid simply tells us OPG isn't to blame, and neither is the contractor!
There ya go!
Apparently, no-one's to blame: this is just perfect!!
Notice how it is patently accepted as unchallenged Liberal gospel when Duguid glibly claims that:
 "The only thing you can blame for that is the rocks beneath our feet."
Wow: really?!?
Apparently, the McGuinty Liberal government had nothin' to do with any of this!!
No mention was given in this story of any opposition viewpoint either.

Now compare Laroque's above column to Parker Gallant's detailed analysis in "Big Becky's budget gets bigger" (National Post, Feb.10, 2011):

"Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid was in Niagara Falls this week with a local MPP and a school bus of media types to deliver a message. “You can’t build a tunnel like this for free,” he stated, referring to Big Becky, the nickname of the machine boring a 10-kilometre tunnel under the city of Niagara Falls to bring more water to the Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric generators.
At least that part of the message was factual. The Big Becky project is $615-million over budget - at least 60% - and will be almost four years late when it finally delivers some hydroelectric power. By that time Ontario’s electricity rates, according to the same minister, will be at least 25% higher.
While the Ontario Liberals claim credit for Big Becky because they approved the original budget of $985-million in 2004, the plans for the tunnel had been in the works for a couple of decades and detailed engineering work had actually started in 1990. Its environmental assessment was actually approved in 1998. At the time, Ontario didn’t need the power, so the project was deferred.
When the McGuinty government came to power, it announced it would close all of Ontario’s coal-fired generating plants by 2007. At the same time, several of the province’s nuclear plants were nearing their end of life and concerns that Ontario could face an energy shortage crystallized in the minds of Ontario Power Generation, the provincial utility, and the Liberals. Plans for Big Becky were dusted off and rushed through the OPG board. The Request for Proposal was sent off quickly for bids to complete the tunnel.
The original approval was for a budget of $985-million, but that ballooned when the contractor hired to drill the tunnel sought a huge adjustment, on the grounds that OPG’s RFP was flawed in its provision of geological information. As a result, the tunnelling costs jumped from $600-million to $1.2-billion. No announcements on this huge increase were made by then energy minister George Smitherman - it was simply run through the Liberal Cabinet and the overrun was blessed, along with the completion delay. A search through the notes of OPG’s financial statements disclosed what had happened.
As the delays in completion became known and OPG was struggling with nuclear refurbishments, alarm bells started ringing in the corridors of the electricity sector and among the Liberals. A power shortage would be a very bad event. McGuinty then backtracked on closing those “dirty” coal-fired generating stations, and their life was extended to 2014. Smitherman rushed through the Green Energy Act, instructed the Ontario Power Authority to pay generously for renewable power, and Ontario now finds itself faced with electricity rates that are 75% higher than 2003 and that are projected to be 46% higher by 2015.
“A hundred years from now, the project will still be contributing to our energy system,” said Duguid. “It’s clean. It’s reliable. It’s something I think Ontario families will be able to take a great deal of pride in.”
In 100 years, perhaps they will."
Funny, eh, how much of what Gallant managed to detail was somehow overlooked by the St.Catharines Standard!!
Smitherman... cost overruns... green energy disasters and Liberal kyodiotism... Liberal lies and flip-flops... what's any of that got to do with re-electing Kim Craitor and Jim Bradley?!!
Wow, indeed.

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