As a follow-up post to Friday’s “GO Train Update & Council Agenda Raises Questions“, we did some digging to try and get a better feel of the latest Metrolinx press release on GO in Niagara and the “information explicitly supplied in confidence” to the Town.  It seems there is something significant on the table, what that is will be interesting to find out.

Now let’s examine the “warm and fuzzy” feeling of the Metrolinx August 16th media advisory which stated:

Metrolinx has hired the design consultant to support the expansion of GO Transit rail service into Niagara Region.

Wood Canada Ltd. will provide engineering services for the detailed design of the three stations, including a new station in Grimsby, retrofitting the existing VIA stations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, and enhancements to the existing Lewis Road Layover in Winona.

In our previous post, we wrote that “these design tenders may have been awarded some time ago” and if our research is correct, this is definitely the case.  The tender below is the one we believe is being alluded to in the Metrolinx press release (click for larger image):

The tender publication and closing dates were in late 2017/early 2018 while the Liberals were still calling the shots at Queens Park.  We will leave that fact for a few minutes while we look at things from another angle.

Wood Canada Ltd. was awarded a tender for “engineering services” and the media advisory refers to them as “design consultants”, there appears to be no construction aspect to the tender… only design and engineering.  Given that engineering firms usually don’t start the moment the ink dries on a contract, it is reasonable to assume that they may begin working on this late 2018 or early 2019.

Now you don’t need to be a engineer or a highly paid consultant to know that government infrastructure projects rarely run on time and often go through multiple designs and refinements. Only once the design work is finalized can Metrolinx issue a construction tender and as is seen above, from issuance to closing and award we are looking at another 8 months minimum of waiting post-design.

Then the construction work has to be scheduled and don’t forget to add-on the inevitable delays to the expected completion date… we can go on but the chances of GO in 2021 even if it is “full steam ahead” is a fleeting reality… but the incumbent members of Council running for re-election might not tell you that.

Now let’s go back to our talk about Queens Park.  We came across an interesting article from “The Voice” that detailed a late July visit by Premier Ford to Summerfest in Pelham.  While it was a typical Ford photo-op, the new Premier did talk business and stated he continued to support GO coming to Niagara with an announcement of a firmer timetable coming mid-August (the closed Council agenda item perhaps?).  We are not sure why the Province needs to issue a “firmer timetable”… we have been told GO trains in Grimsby by 2021 ad nauseum by Metrolinx and our now-campaigning Council members.  Is this now changing?

But then here is where it really went off the rails in the article (link here):

“You guys have probably heard about this,” he said, meaning his two-reporter audience. Ford said that during the campaign he’d heard persistent rumours of land purchases along the planned GO Train line, insider deals based on insider knowledge, the implication being that Liberal government officials tipped-off Liberal-friendly developers that it might not be a bad idea to buy parcel X in town Y, wink-wink.

Ford wasn’t wrong. Such rumours have been floating for several months. Rumours only, mind you, but interestingly consistent, and Niagara-centric.

“We’re going to look into that,” he said, smiling big, and with unmistakable pleasure.

“We’re going to look into that” certainly does not sound like he is going to accelerate the GO expansion timetable and possibly enrich a few land-owning Liberals, let alone keep to the existing timetable which would have GO in Grimsby in 2021.  If he is now willing to put the GO expansion and land purchases under the microscope, it will probably mean a full-stop on the process (including the design work) leading to a significant delay, perhaps putting stations or the whole project on the chopping block.

The new government may be saying “yes” to GO, but it may be a case of “yes, but not now”.  While we hope things are on schedule, fairness and realism should be our guides and in that, the chances of GO trains rolling through or at least *to* Grimsby in 2021 seem much more distant than they did a year ago.

At the local level, if the Province and/or Metrolinx had “good news” for the consumption and possible political benefit of Council, you can bet it would have not been “supplied in confidence” to the Town and scheduled for a closed meeting.  Is the Province embargoing this information in hopes of keeping it under wraps until after the municipal election?

If the contents of this closed session don’t come out in the wash anytime soon, it might be an interesting topic to raise with your current Alderman or Regional Councillor when they they knock on your door asking for your vote.  GO Train service, once a bragging right of Council and a saviour for the developers, may soon become the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.