Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday December 21, 2019
Auditor general is looking into cost estimates for Hamilton LRT
Ontario’s auditor general says she’ll look at how reasonable the province’s cost estimates were for Hamilton light-rail transit (LRT) as part of an upcoming audit of Metrolinx.
A key construction union is also investigating the government’s numbers, and says its preliminary investigation shows the province has been misled.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said in a letter to Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath Thursday that she already started a value-for-money audit of Metrolinx governance and operations earlier this month.
“As part of this audit, we will be looking at the reasonableness of the cost estimates for rapid transit projects, including the Hamilton LRT,” she said.
Lysyk was responding to a request from Horwath, who represents Hamilton Centre. The province cancelled an LRT project earlier this week that runs 14 kilometres through three NDP ridings, including Horwath’s. The province will still invest $1 billion in Hamilton, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said, but a task force will decide how it’s spent.
Horwath wrote Lysyk on Wednesday asking her to look into the Ministry of Transportation estimate that Hamilton LRT would cost $5.5 billion in capital, operating and maintenance over 30 years.
Mulroney said the estimate was the reason her government cancelled LRT. The ministry hired a third-party consultant, she said, after “proponents in the market” alerted her that the Hamilton project was over budget.
Horwath wants Lysyk to investigate why the cost-per-kilometre is higher for Hamilton’s LRT than the Hurontario and Finch West lines.
“The minister is refusing to disclose the third-party consultant’s report that the premier cites as validation for his figures,” Horwath told Lysyk, “so the public has no way of independently assessing them.”
The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) announced earlier this week its investment arm would do its own review of the numbers. The union said in a statement Friday that preliminary figures show the province’s numbers were inflated. (CBC)