Latest from Stone on Viaducts: “committed to sitting down with the city so we get this project right”

Transportation minister Todd Stone was under fire in the Legislature this afternoon from Vancouver Fairview NDP MLA George Heyman for his recent comments on the city’s decision to replace the Viaducts.  Stone’s final comment: he’s “committed to sitting down with the city . . . so we get this project right.”

Glad that’s cleared up. Here’s Hansard:

VANCOUVER VIADUCTS PROJECT AND ROLE OF TRANSPORTATION MINISTER
G. Heyman: It didn’t take the Transportation minister more than a day to create confusion by pouring cold water on the city of Vancouver’s decision to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir Street viaducts.
He said: “Nothing is a done deal here with the viaducts…. I’ve checked with my officials. It’s been a couple of years since there were any serious attempts on the part of the city of Vancouver to reach out to PavCo, which owns and operates B.C. Place.”
Clearly, the minister has not done his homework. In fact, there have been extensive meetings and discussions between the city of Vancouver and PavCo. Between April 2014 and late September 2015, there have been eight — count them, eight — meetings between the city and PavCo on this issue.
My question to the minister is this: is he just making this whole story up? Or did he and his staff triple-delete the e-mails and briefing notes from these meetings?
Interjections.
Madame Speaker: Members, the Chair will hear the answer.
Hon. T. Stone: Look, no one is pouring cold water on this particular project from the city of Vancouver. Rather, we believe on this side of the House that it’s very important that there be appropriate discussions, meaningful discussions, discussions that include getting right down into the technical aspects of what is being proposed here.
PavCo has, we think, some very valid concerns with respect to access to and from B.C. Place. We want to make sure that those concerns are heard and that they’re factored into the plans. There are concerns with respect to soil remediation. There are concerns with respect to access to the new St. Paul’s Hospital. There are concerns with respect to TransLink’s major road network and just overall traffic flow in and out of the city of Vancouver that, at the present time, is facilitated in part with these viaducts.
We’re committed to sitting down and working with the city of Vancouver to work through a myriad of concerns, which we think are going to be critical to the success of this plan.
Madame Speaker: The member for Vancouver-Fairview on a supplemental.
G. Heyman: I thought the minister was just falling into his old habit of saying no to whatever suggestion was put forward by the city of Vancouver to relieve congestion or actually make it a better place for the citizens. The minister also said the other day there have been no meaningful technical discussions about access to B.C. Place.And he repeated it again in this House. The minister is deliberately trying to change the channel on his e-mail scandal by creating confusion on the viaduct issue. There have, in fact….
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Interjections.
Madame Speaker: Members, the Chair will hear the question. Minister, the Chair will hear the question.
Please continue.
G. Heyman: Perhaps the Minister of Transportation should actually read his e-mails before he triple-deletes them.

Madame Speaker: Just wait.
Members, the Chair will hear the question.
Minister, the Chair will hear the question.
Please continue.
G. Heyman: Perhaps the Minister of Transportation should actually read his e-mails before he triple-deletes them.
The city of Vancouver has produced many comprehensive technical studies on all aspects of the issue regarding viaduct removal, including an 88-page report called event management strategies that is specific to the very question of access to B.C. Place and Rogers Arena.
Why is the minister inventing an issue where none exists? Is it just a sad attempt to deflect attention and avoid accountability for his and his staff’s repeated and reckless destruction of public documents?
Hon. T. Stone: We certainly do not need to be lectured on this side of the floor as to the meaning of no. We hear about it every single day of the week from the members opposite. No to the Port Mann project, no to the Sea to Sky Highway, no to the SFPR, no to Trans-Canada improvements, no to this, no to that, no to everything.
I will repeat…
Interjections.
Madame Speaker: Members.
Hon. T. Stone: …what I said last week and what I said a moment ago. There have been no meaningful discussions between PavCo and the city of Vancouver, meaningful technical discussions that are going to be required to make sure that this project is done right.
Unlike the members opposite, we do not take our orders from the city of Vancouver. Our obligation is to ensure that the interests of all British Columbians are looked after with any project of this magnitude.
D. Eby: Eight meetings, four technical reports, including an 88-page technical report on accessing these venues. The minister continues to make incorrect statements about the state of negotiations between PavCo and the city of Vancouver.
At the time he was telling the media these incorrect statements, he was under fire for heading a ministry where a senior staffer was under RCMP investigation for his role in the triple-delete scandal. Not only that, the minister was out telling the media how proud he was that he triple-deletes his own e-mail records.
Now, the evidence shows that the minister has simply made up a controversy involving PavCo and the city of Vancouver. Clearly, he is doing so to change the channel on his own involvement in the triple-delete scandal and the scandal of his ministry being under RCMP investigation.
Will he apologize to the hard-working bureaucrats at the city of Vancouver…?
Interjections.
Madame Speaker: Members. Members.
Please continue.
D. Eby: There were many people involved in these meetings. Many thoughtful people prepared these technical reports. They did so carefully, to protect the interests of people across the Lower Mainland.
Will the minister apologize to those people who worked so hard for trying to change the channel at their expense?
Hon. T. Stone: Look, as I said earlier, we don’t control the timing of council decisions that are taken by the city of Vancouver. The city of Vancouver actually received a letter from PavCo several days before council took their final decision, outlining a number of concerns that PavCo believed, to that point, had not been adequately considered by the city of Vancouver.
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I quote from the letter dated October 19, from PavCo to the mayor and council in Vancouver. “Among the key issues impacting PavCo are maintaining acceptable operating and event access for B.C. Place and the new Vancouver urban resort, residential development on area 10C, soil remediation, design of the
adequately considered by the city of Vancouver.
I quote, from the letter dated October 19, from PavCo to the mayor and council in Vancouver: “Among the key issues impacting PavCo are maintaining acceptable operating and event access for B.C. Place and the new Vancouver urban resort, residential development on area 10c, soil remediation, design of the relocated Georgia Viaduct ramp and construction of parking beneath, First Nations consultation, Pacific Boulevard and other street designs and traffic planning.” In addition to that, there are some other issues that we want to make sure are also part of the consideration for moving forward.
I have said it several times, and I will say again that we are committed to sitting down with the city of Vancouver and having these technical discussions so that we get this project right.

[End of question period.]