Finally, on a Thursday before a four day holiday weekend, and three and a half months later than its self-imposed deadline, Canada Line Rapid Transit Inc. (“CLCO”) has issued its “Final Project Report: Competitive Selection Phase”, complete with a “Review Engagement Report of the Auditor General of British Columbia”.

CLCO has trumpeted that its report concludes “Canada Line expected to deliver value for money” and that the Auditor General’s report “fairly describes the assumptions, context, decisions, procurement process and results to date of the Canada Line rapid transit project.” What smoke and mirrors.

First, the smoke: The report has an effective date of July 29, 2005 and says nothing about what has happened over the last nine months. Further, as Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer has pointed out, CLCO reached its optimistic conclusions by comparing its yet to be built P3 project with an imaginary public project, called a “public sector comparator”. For reasons that are not clear, and cannot withstand scrutiny, the Canada Line is said to generate prospective ridership revenues that will be $148 million higher than a comparable project built by the public sector. These revenues have themselved been calculated using ridership projections that have been roundly criticised as unrealistic. As if the wispy projections of costs aren’t enough, costs remain shrouded in mist. The Concession Agreement has had all its financial data on costs expunged, and nobody has yet explained how a project said to cost $1.72 billion in February of 2005 suddenly cost $2.05 billion by July of that same year.

Next, the mirrors: How do the folks at the Auditor General’s office look at themselves in their mirrors in the morning? Here’s what the Auditor General has concluded about his review of the one of the most expensive taxpayer-funded projects in British Columbia history:

“…actual results and future events, in particular ridership and ridership revenue, could differ materially from the results discussed or implied. Accordingly, I express no opinion as to whether the expected results will be achieved.”

No opinion? Are we, the province’s taxpayers, paying this supposed watchdog to provide no opinion on something as fundamental as the project’s revenues?