Despite the insistence of Pat Bell and Christy Clark that the Wood Innovation and Design Centre project will happen, the project's immediate future is as cloudy as it's ever been.
Northern Development Initiatives Trust has filed a foreclosure suit against Commonwealth Campus Corp., made up of Dan McLaren and a group of local investors, for half of the outstanding money left on a loan provided to assemble property around the former P.G. Hotel for the wood centre.
There have been public and private accusations of skullduggery between all the parties, from McLaren and BID Group CEO Brian Fehr, up through NDIT and its CEO, Janine North, to Bell, fellow Prince George MLA Shirley Bond and Premier Clark about how the whole deal went sideways - how money that was supposed to be provided was not, how property that was supposed to be bought was not, how a massive structure, touted as the tallest wood building in the world and worth more than $100 million, somehow shrunk to a $25 million investment on a much smaller piece of downtown land.
The project will only go ahead as currently planned if, through some incredible election magic, the B.C. Liberals manage to hold power past May 14. Just because the money has been set aside in the most recent provincial budget doesn't mean the wood centre is a done deal. That budget, and the funding to build the wood centre, will be worseless if the NDP are voted into power.
Notice the stress on the word "currently" because the goal posts on this project keep moving, which is largely what's behind the recent kerfuffle. So even if Clark is reelected premier, who knows what the final outcome of the wood centre will be?
With Bell out of the picture, she could win some political points by agreeing to an investigation into the entire WIDC affair, which would put the project on hold temporarily. If she's looking for an exit from this troublesome development, then she could use the results of that investigation to suspend the whole thing indefinitely. It wouldn't be hard to frame the parameters of the investigation to make sure that was the only outcome - just look at how ethnic voting "investigation" this week simply confirmed what everyone already knew, with a few new salacious details to mask how shallow the investigation really was.
The prospect of the WIDC project is even more uncertain under the NDP. Despite assurances from local NDP candidates that they'll honour the pledge by the Liberals to go ahead, it will be easy for the NDP to walk away and blame Pat Bell and the Liberals for mismanagement.
They could also order an investigation into the affair, not just to further embarrass the Liberals but to also buy themselves some time to make up their mind on the viability of the WIDC. Based on the findings of the report, it would give the NDP the political cover to nix the whole thing or to go ahead with construction, claiming it as their own and taking credit for getting something done in Prince George that Bell and the Liberals endlessly talked about but didn't deliver.
The court challenges and the finger pointing will go on for some time, while both the Liberals and the NDP are quietly figuring out how to use this issue during the election campaign and afterwards.