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Premier John Horgan stops the controversial Royal BC Museum project

Written by Javed Iqbal

Horgan took full responsibility for the timing of the project, which came at a time when British Colombians are struggling to pay for higher gas prices and the cost of living.

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The province is scrapping the controversial $ 789 million Royal BC Museum project after intense public backlash, Prime Minister John Horgan announced Wednesday.

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“We made choices based on the best information at hand, and we thought we were right. We clearly did not. I have heard the people of British Columbia quite clearly that we was manufacturing that wrong decision on that wrong time,” said Horgan at a news conference in Victoria. “I called wrong.”

The province will return to the drawing board and ask the Royal BC Museum’s board and CEO to fully consult with the public before deciding on the next steps for the future of the building, which Horgan said still has a desperate need for modernization.

He took full responsibility for the poor timing of the project, which came during an economic crisis that has left British Colombians struggling to pay for higher gas prices and living costs.

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“With all the other challenges they face in their daily lives – gas prices, food prices, rents, mortgage repayments and the prospect of rising interest rates, challenges in healthcare – the public felt that we put them all together. the museum, “Horgan said. “That was not the case, but it was the view. I think the right way to go is to step down, take responsibility as head of government and see where the consultation leads us.”

Horgan has been under intense pressure to stop the project from opposition MLAs, who say the government should instead spend public money on addressing the lack of health care and seismically upgrading BC schools. There was no public hearing before the surprising announcement on 13 May that the 54-year-old museum would be closed on 6 September, demolished and replaced in 2030.

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The decision to scrap the project was made at a cabinet meeting on Monday, Horgan said, but he has been thinking about the negative response since a week after the announcement on the 13th.

Horgan said Wednesday he wanted the museum to become a “punchline at parties” or a political football.

About the face means that the museum will not close on 6 September after all. The province will still go ahead with building a new $ 224 million archive and collection building in Colwood, a suburb of Victoria.

BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon, who called for the “vanity museum boondoggle” to be canceled, told reporters via Zoom that although he is happy the project has been put on hold, this is “not a leadership moment” for Horgan. Falcon is concerned that the government will kick the project down the road “until the temperature drops”, undergo a “sham” consultation process and still rebuild.

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Falcon noted that the Prime Minister said he is not in favor of a museum renovation that has prejudiced the outcome of any consultation process.

BC Green party leader Sonia Furstenau said in a statement that the billion-dollar project was “an indication of how out of touch the BC NDP is.”

While Furstenau praised the prime minister for acknowledging his mistake, “it should not have taken weeks of massive public outcry and political calculations for them to realize that the public has other priorities.”

An Angus Reid poll published last week showed that 69 per cent of British Colombians are opposed to the costly reconstruction of the Royal BC Museum and are more concerned about inflation, health care and affordability.

The $ 789 million price tag shocked taxpayers, and had it gone ahead, the project would have been most expensive museum project in Canadian history in straight, uninflated dollars.

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Despite two weeks of grilling during the question period and angry emails from voters across the province, Horgan and Tourism Minister Melanie Mark showed no sign of going back on the project, saying the province’s collective history is in jeopardy because the aging museum is seismic unhealthy and in danger. of floods.

In response to concerns that the public was left in the dark about the $ 789 million cost, Mark released the business case on May 25, which showed that the revitalization or repair of the aging buildings would cost as much or more than a new museum .

“We simply do not want to kick this project down the road,” Mark said at the time. “There is a risk in not doing anything.”

Critics pointed out that there are 250 schools in BC waiting for seismic upgrades.

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Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education announced confirmed it is delaying seven previously promised funding for new schools or seismic upgrades to existing schools due to the economic consequences of the pandemic and last year’s catastrophic floods. That was despite Horgan saying on June 7 that there is no limit to the school’s capital budgets.

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Javed Iqbal

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