Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Canada Line builder SNC-Lavalin criticized – From the Georgia Straight


An interesting article from the Georgia Straight, shining some light on SNC Lavalin wining the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Engineering Excellence. Deserved or not, the comments (on the Georgia Straight Link) are worth reading. Somehow building an economy metro line, that does nothing special and when the taxpayer is kept from finding the real cost, is not worthy of any award.

Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Canada Line builder SNC-Lavalin criticized – From the Georgia Straight

By Travis Lupick

It’s been described in the media as “the big winner” of the 2010 Awards for Engineering Excellence, which were presented on April 24. And indeed, for its work on the Canada Line, SNC-Lavalin Inc. did take home the prize of the night—the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Engineering Excellence.

But the company’s record is far from spotless, former Cambie Street merchant Susan Heyes was quick to pronounce.

“The Canada Line project and SNC knowingly chose a method of construction that caused scores of businesses to fail,” Heyes told the Straight by phone. “This unreasonable, preventable nuisance—and SNC’s lack of social responsibility—is not worthy of an award, but rather of a warning: this must never happen again.”

The owner of Hazel & Co. is embroiled in a lawsuit related to the Canada Line that names as a defendant InTransit B.C. Limited Partnership, a company partly owned by SNC.

In May 2009, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found InTransit, TransLink, and Canada Line Rapid Transit Inc. “wholly” responsible for a substantial loss of income by Hazel & Co. That decision is under appeal.

During the Canada Line’s construction, SNC also came under fire for its treatment of temporary foreign workers.

In December 2008, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled that members of Local 1611 of the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union were discriminated against by their employers.

Along with the other respondents named in the complaint, SNC was ordered to pay the Latin American workers $10,000 each as “compensation for injury to dignity”.

An InTransit representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

Glenn Martin, executive director of Consulting Engineers of British Columbia, the organization that oversees the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Engineering Excellence, told the Straight that the award was bestowed on SNC “based on the merit of the project”.

“It is an award for engineering excellence,” she said, adding, “It boils down to looking at the ‘wow factor’ of what the project is, and what sort of creative, innovative, excellent engineering goes into the project.”

Martin explained that a panel of industry leaders examines a variety of criteria when deliberating on potential recipients of the award, and noted that the emphasis is on the individual projects being considered.

SNC’s controversies extend beyond the Canada Line. SNC Technologies Inc., a former subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, has been criticized for supplying the U.S. military with bullets for use in Iraq. The division of the company that manufactured munitions has since been sold.


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6 Responses to “Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Canada Line builder SNC-Lavalin criticized – From the Georgia Straight”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    Remeber, that the case did not win on misrepresentation ie, there was no concerted effort to ‘bait and switch’.

    ” There is no evidence to support the allegation that the representation made in mid-2003 with respect to the method of tunnel construction was false or negligent. While that should have been apparent to the plaintiff and its counsel well in advance of trial, the claim in relation
    to that representation was not abandoned until the plaintiff’s closing submissions.”

    Ms. Heyes case won on nuisance, which would set an interesting precident. Other transit infrastructure projects, like TTC LRT routes similar to Toronto’s St Clair LRT, may be further jeopardized by this ruling.

    “The city is facing a new storm over the troubled St. Clair streetcar project, in the form of a $100-million lawsuit that casts a shadow over Toronto’s massive planned light-rail expansion.

    The record of what happened on St. Clair is a clear and obvious one,” Mr. Edell said, citing “many besieged merchants on the street, many who are holding on to their stores by the flimsiest of margins, many of whom have lost their businesses.”

    The claim seeks $100-million in damages and a further $5-million in punitive damages against the City of Toronto only.

    Zweisystem replies: In fact Mezz, the judge did not pursue the ‘bait and switch’ aspect as it was a civil case not a criminal case. It now more apparent than ever that SNC Lavalin had the inside track on cut-and cover subway construction as the the whole RAV/Canada Line project cost was Skyrocketing. A switch to cut-and-cover construction and the substitution of a generic metro instead of SkyTrain probably saved about $400 million in costs.

  2. David Says:

    One of the supposed advantages of cut and cover, other than cost, is accessibility. Simply being closer to the surface means fewer stairs and shorter escalators. However, the design of many Vancouver stations shows that to be false.

    For example both Oakridge and Langara stations have three separate elevators and three escalators. For seniors, shoppers with carts, commuters with bicycles and parents with strollers the design could hardly be more frustrating and time consuming.

    I know why the stations were done that way:
    1. a shallow, straighter pair of tunnels is cheaper to build
    2. moving the ticket machines and fare paid zone underground makes the surface buildings much smaller meaning lower land acquisition costs.
    3. opening the underground stations to the general public increases the viability of businesses located inside the stations because non-transit customers can shop there.

    I’l spare you my point-by-point rebuttals and simply say that extra station equipment with the attendant maintenance costs and down time raises operating costs and inconveniences passengers. The Province gets to claim lower construction costs while transit passengers and local taxpayers get slammed. Nothing ever changes around here.

  3. mezzanine Says:

    “The Province gets to claim lower construction costs while transit passengers and local taxpayers get slammed. Nothing ever changes around here.”

    Reading more into the TTC St Clair LRT construction story, there are interesting contrasts with the Canada Line. The TTC tried to use several smaller contractors and found problems as there was a lack co-ordination among the contractors and their sub-trades.

    “Small contractors usually have insufficient resources to provide effective control of their sub-contractors and, wherever they are working in close proximity to other small contractors, conflicts often arise with respect to the use of the same space by different groups of trades during, more or less, the same time periods.

    Large contractors are better able to leverage the size of the contract to exercise more market control over sub-suppliers. Minimizing the number of different ‘players’ also increases the likelihood of schedule adherence and facilitates the overall efficiency of project management and coordination.”

    Zweisystem replies: The St. Clair line was a complete botch up. The more I hear about the TTC, it ranks on par with TransLink with its inept planning and execution of transit construction.

  4. Justin Bernard Says:

    Mezzanie, what are you talking about? The St. Clair ROW is not going to affect the Transit City lines, as the TC lines are being funded by the province, and not the city. Doesn’t help the article is from a National Paper, and not a local one.
    I have no love for the TTC management, but some of the blame for the project delay has to go to Toronto Hydro, and a group called SOS for delaying the project, and cost overruns. The TTC is not totally at fault for this. The Sheppard East LRT currently under construction, is not being handled the same way as the St. Clair ROW. So please, stop using the St. Clair ROW as an example. It does nothing for for your argument.

  5. mezzanine Says:

    “Mezzanie, what are you talking about? The St. Clair ROW is not going to affect the Transit City lines, as the TC lines are being funded by the province, and not the city. Doesn’t help the article is from a National Paper, and not a local one.

    So please, stop using the St. Clair ROW as an example. It does nothing for for your argument.”

    I use it to compare and contrast issues with our C-line (I assume you are from TO). A lot of the arguments here and I suppose in TO is about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Certainly, I think the Metro Vancouver area can learn a lot about from TO about what works (the VivaBus program looks like it’s working well, you guys are rolling out smart cards earlier than us), and of course I want to avoid pitfalls that you guys encountered.

    I really do want St clair to be successful. I don’t want to cast final judgement a few months into opening, just like some are with the C-line. But arguably, transit city initiatives have lost momentum because of problems with st clair construction.

    “Coun. Rob Ford: Welcomed the delay, saying he didn’t support the Eglinton and Finch Avenue West lines. He cited the St. Clair Avenue West project’s problems, which suffered from delays and cost overruns

    Former Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman: Thought Transit City should be slowed down, also mentioned St. Clair Ave. W. “

  6. Justin Bernard Says:

    The problem is, you are comparing a brand-new metro line that probably took a few years to plan, and design, to what was essentially part of a road-rebuilding project. St. Clair Ave(the road, and streetcar tracks) were due for major reconstruction, and the TTC decided at the last minute to re-build the ROW that was taken out in the 1930’s, as the TTC determined the original cost to be $7million extra. It’s NOT an LRT project, contrary to what the papers, and anti-transit activists would lead people to believe. It was a road-reconstruction project, and one that was poorly managed. The streetcar tracks existed on St. Clair since the early 20th century, and there was a ROW on St. Clair in the past. You are not comparing a metro to LRT. You are comparing a metro to a road-construction project involving various city agencies. You are welcome to cast judgment, but cast judgment on the entire project, and do not just focus on the track rebuilding portion. I find it deplorable(not referring to you) some would use the St. Clair project to further their anti-LRT agenda in Toronto.
    And the VivaBus program merely replaced mature, and established GO transit bus routes in the suburban GTA. The ridership was already in place when Viva started operating. I would not call that a success, even though I do not mind Viva.

    Contrary to what Rob Ford tells the media, the delay in Transit City funding is not due to the St. Clair road project, it is because the province is trying to cut a deficit, and it’s easy to pick out projects with billion dollar price tags. The Province insists the transit city is still being funded but over 10 years, instead of 8 as originally promised. The province just entered negotiations with Bombardier to purchase the LRV’s for the proposed lines, and the Sheppard East LRT which is already under construction. One side effect is that the province apparently is going to buy Translink’s Mark I cars and use them on the Scarborough RT ICTS line here, until the province funds the conversion of the line to LRT. Was there talk of that over there?

    Also, it’s an election year, the candidates will say anything to get votes.

    Zweisystem replies: Thank you Justin. Many on-street LRT projects have been part of a major road building project and the cost of the road rebuilding was placed directly on the LRT/tram project.

    In the UK, because the much of the underground utilities are date from the Victoria and Edwardian eras are replaced when a new LRT project is built, which greatly drives up the cost of construction, while at the same time gives the utility companies a free pass.

    If LRT was built on Broadway, it would be built on a former streetcar RoW, with the utilities placed on each side of the RoW, there would be no expensive replacement needed.

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