Cost overruns prompt close look

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People in Pictou County have a close-up look at the potential costs in maintaining a wooden ship. Over the past couple of years especially, keeping the Hector in decent shape went from a difficult problem to a celebrated cause.

Now the province is facing the dilemma of a floating ambassador, namely, Bluenose II, that is reportedly costing taxpayers a bundle in a rebuild effort. There are politicians and tax watchdogs predictably upset about the costs. Premier Stephen McNeil on Thursday went so far as to call the issue a boondoggle.

The overhaul of the trademark schooner – a replica of one of the most famous vessels of the Maritimes – is now two years behind schedule and seriously over-budget. The original budget for the project was $12.5 million, but the latest estimate stands at $16.7 million. Speculation has it that increasing labour costs will push that figure even higher.

According to an article this week from The Canadian Press, factors holding up progress have included lawsuits and management infighting over the project.

McNeil said his government is asking the auditor general to look at the project, with a report to be done in the coming year.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation raised some awareness of the ongoing burden of cost earlier this week when it released figures showing huge markups on bills submitted to government by the builders.

It’s not hard to see that the average Nova Scotian would be conflicted upon hearing such reports. In a small sampling of people, a reader poll in this paper earlier this week showed 35 per cent concerned that the project was too costly, while 46 per cent believed the work should continue as this is an important symbol for the province – and most of the rest were torn on the issue.

It’s sad, but these kinds of things tend to become a boondoggle after the fact. We’ll have an audit now to look into reasons that drove up the cost. But with so much already spent, it’s a little late to turn back.

Organizations: Canadian Press

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