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Paragon of haste

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Eleven weeks to put proposals together, find financing, review city planning documents, determine allowable uses, conduct market studies, configure the site, set up partnerships, determine financial viability.  And that’s just on the proponent side. 

Then PavCo had to review all the proposals for viability, value for money, compatibility with the rest of the stadium redevelopment – the list goes on and on.  Months and months of work squeezed into just over two months. 

Contrast that with the process taking place around the Evergreen Line.

RFQ (request for quotation) for the Evergreen Line asks for significant information in 13 different areas.  It describes a process very similar to the BC Place redevelopment process - RFQ, invitation to bid in a RFP, selection – with one very big exception; the BC government expects to take over a year to receive and evaluate the proposals to build the Evergreen Line.

The Evergreen Line is the rule, not the exception. According to Partnerships BC, most big government projects take 12 to 16 months to determine the best proponent for the project.  The exception is the 11 week decision-making process that ended up awarding a $450 million redevelopment of BC Place lands to a Las Vegas based gaming company with ties to a prominent BC Liberal.

Why did PavCo rush the process? 

PavCo refused to provide the RFQ and RFP documents to the Opposition critic Spencer Chandra Herbert, citing business privacy concerns.  But PavCo has admitted that the process only generated two applicants, and of the two only Paragon provided a serious proposal. 

In other words, in a rushed process that prevented the due diligence normally required in deals this big, PavCo ended up awarding on the basis of one serious bid.  That conflicts with government policy as expressed in the procurement manual as well as Partnerships BC policy.  Both place competitive processes at the centre of the procurement process.  As the BC Liberals directed Partnerships BC - the government agency responsible for most large projects - bids must “demonstrate transparent and competitive processes.”

The question is why did PavCo abandon government processes that were designed to maximize taxpayer benefit and minimize taxpayer risk?  Why did PavCo construct a process that made it impossible for a different kind of project - a project that wasn’t based around a casino?

Tipping the scales

PavCo chose Paragon’s lone proposal within weeks of the 2009 provincial election.  But the plan was set in motion at least a year and a half earlier.  That’s the story told by a series of 2008 City Council reports on the BC Place Lands.

In the fall of 2007 senior officials with the Pavilion Corporation approached Vancouver City Manager Judy Rogers with a request to amend the North False Creek Official Development Plan to accommodate the redevelopment of the BC Place lands.  And PavCo offered to pay $145,000 to the city to cover 50% of the cost of the city-run planning process they wanted.  The planning process would address PavCo’s land use and floor space needs on the redeveloped BC Place lands.

According to the Council Report of January 31st, 2008 “The stadium site is the only one in NEFC [North East False Creek] that has no potential stated in the ODP, and PavCo feel it is critical to understand the development potential in order to provide the financial foundation to support the cost of rehabilitation.”

 In other words, Pavco wanted the necessary zoning changes in place before they began pursuing development proposals.  The zoning changes would determine the kind of project they would seek.

 And that’s what happened.   

Paragon’s winning bid emerged out of the zoning and land use changes made by PavCo and the City in 2008.

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