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Keeping track of how TransLink, which ran on $1.44 billion in 2013, is spending on the road to the spring plebiscite over a 0.5% sales tax increase in Metro Vancouver. It has a $7.5 billion wish list for rail, bus, bridge and bike lane expansion over the next decade.
On Jan. 2, Counterpoint Communications got a new year’s gift. Its “Business and Stakeholder Outreach” consulting contract was extended indefinitely by TransLink without a bid, because of tight timelines and Counterpoint’s “unique expertise.”
Said the notice of intent: “The Supplier has provided focused stakeholder engagement services to raise awareness of the Mayors’ Council vision, developed a strong understanding of the Mayors’ Plan and provided an important liaison between TransLink/Mayors’ Council and stakeholders.”
Mayors’ Council chair Richard Walton, who is also Mayor of North Vancouver District, was unable to answer about the budget for the contract when I contacted him.
The public relations and lobbying company’s five principals include Bob Ransford, who is thought of by NPA loyalists as a turncoat for joining Vision Vancouver before the 2011 election. Ransford is chair of EasyPark, the City of Vancouver’s quasi-non governmental organization that runs downtown parking lots and was rocked by scandal in 2012 when a worker with gambling addiction was accused of stealing from the company.
Ransford did not respond for comment.
Vote in spring, learn cost by fall
Meanwhile, TransLink is one step closer to hiring consultants to come up with the estimated cost of the Broadway SkyTrain extension and Surrey light rail after the plebiscite. Yes, TransLink wants you to vote yes to hike sales taxes in Metro Vancouver before it gets an accurate estimate of the cost of the Commercial-to-Arbutus Broadway subway (which has been pegged at $3 billion so far).
Seven companies (including two bidding jointly) submitted proposals for the “Phase 3A Technical Services” contract for the proposed Surrey project: Aecom Canada, Ausenco Engineering Canada, CH2M Hill Canada, IBI Group, Parsons, Steer Davies Gleave North America/Hatch Mott Macdonald. For Broadway, three companies responded: Parsons, Stantec Consulting and SDG/HMM.
Notably absent from the two lists is SNC-Lavalin, the Canada Line and Evergreen Line SkyTrain builder that was quietly involved in previous phases of planning for the Broadway subway. Scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin’s troubles continue and could climax in 2015. But the reason why the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant did not respond to either request for proposal is evidently in the small print of the tendering documents.
Both requests for proposal were clear. The contractor selected “will be excluded” from bidding on design and construction should it be a public-private partnership with funding from PPP Canada. Without PPP Canada funding, the contractor “may be excluded” from bidding on the design and construction or being a subcontractor, partner, or joint venturer.
What is PPP Canada? In a nutshell, it is the federal Crown corporation reporting to the Ministry of Finance, mandated to “improve the delivery of public infrastructure by achieving better value, timeliness and accountability to taxpayers through P3s.”
Its board of directors includes ex-SNC-Lavalin CEO Jacques Lamarre and Rocky Mountaineer luxury tourist train owner Peter Armstrong.
In 2012, three years after leaving the SNC CEO suite, Lamarre still owned 1.5 million shares in the company and he denied the corruption allegations against it. On a lighter note, the National Post reported in 2013 that Lamarre once promised to send a polar bear to Algeria. Armstrong was president of the NPA during the 2014 election campaign and also its single biggest donor.
Yes campaigner seeks TransLink dough
Finally, there is a very long list of more than 50 companies that responded to TransLink’s invitation to pre-qualify for “Professional Planning Research and Policy Services” under RFP Q14-155.
Who might some of those companies be that are in line, hoping to score a TransLink contract?
You’ll recognize Aecom, CH2M Hill, Parsons, Stantec and SDG, who are seeking the Surrey and/or Broadway technical services contracts (see above). Interfleet Technology is on the list. The U.K-based consultancy is a division of SNC-Lavalin.
Also seeking TransLink gigs under the same tender notice are Counterpoint Communications, Kirk and Co., Stratcom and West Star Communications Corp.
Kirk and Co. is a BC Liberal-allied firm that already has a TransLink gig which was extended without bid. A Nov. 25, 2014 notice of intent re-upped its “Public Affairs and Engagement Consultant” contract. Mike McDonald, the BC Liberal campaign manager when Premier Christy Clark promised a TransLink funding referendum, is part of Kirk. See above for more about Counterpoint. Stratcom is the polling, research and robocall arm of Vision Vancouver.
West Star is a surprising entry on the list. It is the firm run by Bill Tieleman, perhaps the most-prominent public face of the Yes campaign, owing to his role in the successful Fight HST campaign in 2011. Tieleman, an NDP and Vision Vancouver supporter, is also a registered lobbyist in B.C. for the labour union that represents the men and women who keep TransLink moving.
“Obviously I don’t do anything that’s in conflict with my other clients, so I continue to work with Unifor locals 111 and 2200 representing bus drivers, mechanics and SeaBus workers. I wouldn’t do anything without their obvious agreement,” Tieleman said by phone. “I saw that TransLink was possibly doing some work and, like a good businessperson, I put in an application in case there was some work that I could do. I have worked with BC Transit in the past, BC Transit was my second client when I started consulting back in 1998. I have quite a bit of expertise on the transit side, I was actually involved in the transformation to effectively what became TransLink, but was first (Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority).
“There may be a business opportunity there, we’ll see what happens down the road. If you don’t put in your pre-qualification, you don’t have a shot at it.”