Bypass price balloons to $1.88 billion from non-P3 budget of $800 million

Regina needs a bypass – but the government’s pricey and complex P3 ownership deal with a France-based corporation has seen the price balloon to a ludicrous $1.88 billion.

In 2014 the bypass, which was not then planned to be a P3, was pegged at $800 million. After deciding to go the P3 route, the cost rose to $1.2 billion. On Wednesday, the government revealed a new $1.88 billion price tag.

“This rent-a-road scheme is obviously costing more as a P3,” said John Nilson, the NDP deputy house leader. “A straightforward build would mean faster construction, done without unnecessarily handing over millions of dollars to corporations from France, California and British Columbia.”

Saskatchewan’s Provincial Auditor says the Sask. Party is using made-up numbers to justify the P3 projects on which it has already decided to plow ahead.

"It's full of estimates. It's full of assumptions,” said auditor Judy Ferguson on June 3, referring to the government’s so-called value-for-money reports. After conducting an audit, she criticized the Sask. Party’s practice of falsely estimating straightforward construction prices much higher than P3 prices by tacking on unsubstantiated numbers for “risk.” The practice was also strongly criticized in Ontario, where the Auditor General found 74 P3 projects cost taxpayers an additional $8 billion.

The NDP has previously been critical of the government’s handling of the long-overdue bypass project. The Sask. Party selected a short-sighted route that is inside the city and too close to current and future development, and won’t divert much traffic as a result.

The NDP is also critical of the fact that the government chose a corporation from France to head up the project – one mired in human rights abuse allegations for its projects in the middle east.

The NDP is also highly concerned that the government refuses to take safety seriously during the long timeframe of the project, especially as Highway 1 east of Regina becomes increasingly dangerous for drivers attempting to turn onto the highway east of Regina at White City and Balgonie.

“Installing traffic lights at the three intersections as an interim measure will save lives,” said Nilson. “It is an overdue step that the government refuses to take based on a report it refuses to release. That kind of nonsense has no place when we are talking about the best way to protect families driving to work in the morning, and teenagers coming and going from Greenall school.

“Regina desperately needs a bypass, but the government has botched this project. It dismisses major concerns about the route chosen. It dismisses concerns about the France-based conglomerate it chose. It dismisses concerns about the price and hides how it arrived at that estimate. Instead of going with a common-sense straightforward approach, this complex and money-wasting scheme to build in the wrong place is one Saskatchewan families will regret for decades. This is a big project – it’s critical that we get it right.”