Re: Incremental options to T2 offer no risk to taxpayers, June 6
A recent column by Steve Simpson suggests there are better options at no risk to taxpayers than the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project. Some of his comments are incorrect and I believe Delta residents deserve to have the facts.
I too am a long-time (30-year) resident of Delta. However, as the retired chief financial officer of the port authority, I can speak to the merits of Terminal 2 with some history and knowledge.
The port authority’s forecasts, validated multiple times by leading international experts, show that Canadian west coast marine container terminals will not be able to meet the import and export trade demands of Canadians by the mid-2020s. It is imperative that capacity is expanded before that happens, and Terminal 2 is the only project that can be evaluated, approved and built on time.
Terminal 2 is nearing the end of a federal environmental assessment process which started over five years ago. The review, approval, procurement and construction of a new terminal will take well over a decade. Since no other project has even started this process, there are no alternatives to meet the demand, even when considering expansions at existing terminals, including Prince Rupert.
The potential impacts of not building in time are enormous. As container terminals reach capacity, the costs to users will go up, which will mean higher prices for everyone. And, as demand will continue to grow, more containers will be redirected through U.S. ports.
I, for one, am not happy with the thought of our imported goods and agricultural exports being dependent on border crossings and U.S. ports.
Simpson attempts to paint a rosier picture for an expansion project recently proposed by the port’s largest container terminal operator, Global Container Terminals, suggesting that a private, for-profit terminal operator is better positioned to build port land. When someone suggests they can help at no cost and no risk to me, I want to look a little deeper.
Global Container Terminals proposes to build a fourth berth in an area previously rejected by federal officials because of its impact on the environment. And while it may raise the capital for a fourth berth, as a financial professional in their position I would certainly look for government funding and port lease concessions to improve my return on investment.
In addition to undergoing the country’s most rigorous federal environmental review and being purpose-built for immediate use, Terminal 2 would be funded by the port authority, not by taxpayers. As Simpson should know, Canada’s port authorities are financially self-sufficient through revenues from port tenants and users.
The port authority also has an excellent credit rating and borrows funds in Canada’s capital markets. The investment in Terminal 2 would be recouped through a decades-long lease with a terminal operator and through user fees, again at no risk to Canadian taxpayers.
This is how port infrastructure is and should be built. The land for Terminal 2 would remain an asset belonging to Canadians, not private enterprise. And the returns on the use of that land would be to the benefit of the port authority and the Canadian public, not corporate shareholders.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, from its board through to every employee, takes its mandate to responsibly facilitate Canada’s trade through the Port of Vancouver seriously. It has an experienced financial team, and departments devoted to community engagement and environmental stewardship.
I have every confidence the path they are on is the right one for Delta and all Canadians. The business case for this project is solid. It puts the public interest first and I am proud to endorse the work of the port authority in supporting Terminal 2.