Canada Line (RAV) construction is well under way in Vancouver, as evidenced by massive open trenches, noise, dust and traffic congestion. Businesses along Cambie Street are bearing the brunt of the disruption with no relief in sight from the governments that have committed billions of tax dollars to the project.


Although provincial Minister of Finance Carole Taylor has sympathized with the businesses’ plight, no meaningful aid has been forthcoming. One objection, that compensation would set a dangerous precedent, does not withstand scrutiny. Governments routinely compensate businesses that lose revenues as a result of public endeavours. For example, the federal government compensated those businesses that lost customers due to the G8 summit in Kananaskis and the more recent summit in Montebello. Whistler Mountain will be compensated handsomely for making its property available for the 2010 Olympic Games. More to the point, the Musqueam Band will be compensated an undisclosed amount for lost fishing opportunities created by the erection of Canada Line abutments in the Fraser River.

Another objection may be the cost of a compensation package. Again, that can’t have any merit. The cost of the Canada Line project has crept from $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion to $1.72 billion to the most recently reported figure of $1.9 billion (2003 dollars), which is in excess of $2.1 billion. Whatever amount is needed to compensate the small businesses that have gone under or are struggling to survive, the amount is modest in comparison to the public funds being spent.

The British Columbia government, a major funding partner in this P3 mega-project, portrays itself as business-friendly. The businesses along Cambie Street, at least those that are still there, have a hard time swallowing that proposition and one of them, Hazel & Co., has launched a legal action for damages based on misrepresentations, nuisance, trespass and injurious affection. More businesses may have no choice but to follow suit…