B.C. New Democrats will honour the contract awarded for construction of the Wood Innovation and Design Centre but will also hold an independent investigation into the controversial allegations swirling around the project.
Both Bobby Deepak, the party's candidate in Prince George-Mackenzie, and NDP forest critic Norm Macdonald confirmed as much Friday following the announcement that work on the long-awaited project will begin towards the end of April.
"I think the Wood Innovation and Design Centre is a good idea, it's good for the people of Prince George and the north," Deepak said. "However, it's been bungled and there are a lot of unanswered questions."
Prince George businessmen Dan McLaren and Brian Fehr have accused Liberal MLAs Pat Bell and Shirley Bond of negotiating in bad faith and leading them to major financial losses related to assembling land for the project.
Northern Development Initiative Trust has launched foreclosure proceedings against Commonwealth Campus Corp., headed by McLaren, over the nearly $1.5 million the company owes the trust.
Court documents show Commonwealth plans to fight back and take the issue to trial but Deepak said that won't be enough.
"The court process is quite different than an independent investigation because as I understand it, the court process is between NDIT and Dan McLaren and Commonwealth, whereas an independent investigation would take into account other parties who may have been involved," Deepak said.
Macdonald said WIDC won't be stopped once work has begun should the NDP win power in May.
"I know there is some controversy around office space but the position of the city is it's an important project for the downtown and from my own perspective, the building it's replacing, [the Prince George Hotel] I think, there's no question it will be an improvement to the area."
In a statement issued Friday, the NDP accused Bell and Bond of sidestepping serious questions about their alleged involvement in the procurement process and negotiations between NDIT and Commonwealth over the loan.
Macdonald was also quoted as dismissing Friday's announcement as "an attempt to paper over allegations of inappropriate involvement in a project that has been bungled right from the start."
That drew an emotional response from Bond.
"There is absolutely no inappropriate involvement and I am not going to be apologetic for being an aggressive advocate for downtown Prince George," Bond said. "At no time were we involved in the procurement process directly and certainly NDIT board is independent, as Pat has stated clearly."