Bell says WDIC process good
An investigation into a complaint about the procurement process surrounding the Wood Innovation and Design Centre filed last November found the process was taking place in an open and fair manner and should proceed, according to Jobs Minister Pat Bell.
The finding, he added, was made by Jane Shackell, the project’s fairness advisor.
Recently it was reported that Dan McLaren and Brian Fehr named the provincial government in a complaint about protocols involving the procurement process in the WIDC.
“I don’t think he actually names me, he names government,” Bell said Tuesday.
However it is Bell who is taking the heat thus far in the media and in statements such as the one issued by B.C. Conservative leader, John Cummins, who calls for Bell’s dismissal from the executive council.
“There was a complaint filed last November with the fairness advisor,” Bell said of the allegation.
The fairness advisor is a lawyer appointed to oversee major tendering or procurement processes, Bell said, typically a Queen’s Counsel member, in this case Jane Shackell.
“She reviewed the file to determine if the procurement process should be stopped,” Bell said.
It was suspended for a short time, he added, while she completed her review.
Bell said Shackell found the process could proceed.
“There was a little period of time where the process was suspended, but once project board received her report the process restarted and should be completed in the next couple of weeks.”
Bell said he is not worried about the allegations.
“This has been a very complicated file from day one. I know lots of people will open the newspaper and see the WIDC in the headline and zone out again,” he said. “It’s been on the table for a long time. That’s unfortunate, but it’s been complex.”
The WIDC was first announced in a 2009 throne speech and two subsequent ones. Land once belonging to McLaren, the site of the old P.G. Hotel between Fourth and Fifth avenues on George Street was purchased. The hotel was demolished.
Though not included in this year’s throne speech, Bell said the project is now between three proponents. Financial submissions will be submitted by those three and the bid winner will be chosen from among them.
“We hope to have a contract signed and a proponent announced by mid-March, and construction thereafter,” Bell said in a previous interview, adding if the weather holds out construction should begin almost immediately after that.
According to the allegations reported by CBC, McLaren and Fehr were told in May 2012 by government representatives that they would be short-listed for the project if the land needed for it was bought ahead of time.
The complexities involved in a project like the WIDC are why lawyers like Shackell are important, Bell said.
“I’m confident the process is reasonable and will result in a good building in downtown Prince George,” Bell said.