It should come as no surprise to anyone with a passing familiarity with the progress of the star-crossed RAV line transportation mega-project (excuse me, it’s now called the “Canada Line”) that RAVCo directors have reneged on another commitment to the public. After the Final Agreement with InTransitBC for this P3 was signed in July, RAVCo (aka RAV Project Management Ltd.) published an Information Bulletin promising that BC’s Auditor General would release his report on the deal by “early December”. The RAVCO Board also assured the public in September that the Final Agreement itself would be disclosed “soon”, or at least by year end.

Well, year end has come, yet there’s no report from Auditor General Wayne Strelioff and the Final Agreement is still under wraps.

Taxpayers, who are on the hook for a huge chunk of the $1.9 billion pricetag, should be concerned with the secrecy, given the project’s history of political games, subterfuge and sleight of hand.

It all started when the logical and most direct route for the line, an existing rail right of way near Arbutus Street, was rejected in favour of a route along Cambie Street. This was done to appease the “creme de la creme” (and Stephen Owen supporters) in the Arbutus corridor of multimillion dollar homes who cried “NIMBY” (not in my backyard).

Then RAVCo pulled a fast one on residents and merchants along Cambie Street by deciding to have 35 blocks of the line built by excavating a massive trench using “cut and cover” construction, this after assuring everyone that a minimally intrusive subsurface tunnel boring method would be used to build the subway line.

Next, in a desperate move to get TransLink Board approval after a failed vote, RAVCo announced with much fanfare that it had managed to secure the winning bid for $1.72 billion, presumably quantified in actual dollars. No sooner had the TransLink Board finally come through with an affirmative vote than RAVCo, with considerably less fanfare, disclosed in mid 2005 that the project would actually cost $1.9 billion in 2003 dollars. With a few strokes of a pen and some creative revisionist accounting, RAVCo had jacked up the cost of the project by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mark my words, the hits will keep on coming. By the time the first Canada Line train rolls (if it ever does), this project will make the Fast Ferry fiasco look like a paragon of government prudence and fiscal responsibility. My guess: this thing will cost at least $3 billion (in 2003 dollars) by the time it’s done. Check back with me on November 30, 2009, when (we’ve been promised by RAVCo) the project will be finished.