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Richards and CCC sign airport deal

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Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, yesterday signed interim agreements with the Canadian Commercial Corporation for the redevelopment of LF Wade International Airport.

While the minister said the contracts did not guarantee the controversial project will move forward, he described them as another step in the incremental contract development process.

“The Letters of Agreement contemplates that a further agreement, called the Airport Development Agreement (ADA), must be entered into in order to set out and describe the ambit, principles and subject matter of the project's final and definitive agreements,” Mr Richards said at a press conference at the airport.

“Phase one of this incremental contract process, which consists of exploration, scoping and data completion, has now been completed. This ADA marks the beginning of phase two, which will complete negotiation of definitive, detailed terms to oversee the project's implementation and move it to financial close.

“This will include the framework definition, design and detail costing, finance and detail finalisation of the contracts, commitments and liabilities, the independent fairness assessment, local tendering and the addressing of legal issues.

“This means moving the project forward with Aecon and CCC to finalise the design and financing of the airport's redevelopment, including construction, operation and maintenance.”

He added that phase two is expected to take about a year, after which there will be a final contract which must be signed before construction can commence.

The minister also defended the Bermuda Government's handling of the project, which has come under fire repeatedly due to a lack of tendering and concerns that the deal would amount to privatisation of the facility.

“The alternative to what we have done so far is no airport,” he said. “The only alternative is no airport at all. We are committed to developing Bermuda, to providing jobs, to constructing a new strategic asset which is needed, and the only way we could go forward with this is this way.

“The traditional tender process which everyone keeps talking about would result in the Government increasing the debt by over a quarter of a billion dollars, which is not something this Government will allow. The alternative being what it is, this is the way to go.”

Minister of Tourism Development and Transport Shawn Crockwell, meanwhile, said the existing terminal was not meeting the first-class standard that visitors and residents expect.

“This Government, your Government, has put together a plan that provides so many benefits for Bermudians,” he said.

“Importantly, it will take a hodgepodge of buildings which we have been using since the 1940s, together with additions and Band-Aids here and there, and replace it with Bermuda's first purpose-built terminal for civilian air traffic. We have been fortunate in finding such high-end partners to help us achieve this objective.”

Martin Zablocki, president and CEO of CCC, said the corporation was excited to be working with Bermuda on a project which will create jobs for Bermudians, both through subcontractors and add-on business, while Aecon Group executive chairman John Beck said it would take great care to deliver infrastructure which supports Bermuda's economy and society. “We are confident that we can do this for Bermuda through a collaborative and affordable process using Aecon's award-winning airport development expertise,” he said. “Using a whole-of-country approach, we will work alongside other companies to maximise employment opportunities for Bermudians and bring best-in-class safety, construction and environmental standards to the project.”

The Progressive Labour Party has repeatedly criticised the One Bermuda Alliance's approach over the airport redevelopment, and last week suggested the creation of an airport authority that would allow Bermudians to take advantage of projected revenues.

Mr Richards, however, dismissed the claim that the deal would cost Bermuda $620 million in revenue over the course of the next 30 years, dismissing the figures as speculation.

“These are coming from people I like to call number bombers,” he said. “They can speculate, they can pontificate, they can prevaricate. They can do that because they don't have to deliver anything. As ministers of this government we have to deliver, so we can't throw numbers around willy-nilly.

“The people who know these numbers are the people who are in this room.

“The people have to ask themselves do the people in this room, Aecon, CCC and the Minister of Finance, know more about this than people who have never built anything? Aecon built the CN Tower. And the new terminal at the Toronto Airport. We are dealing with experts here.

“I really think the number bombers need to let us do the deep dive into the data to prove the economics of this project, and that's what phase two is. A commitment to do a deep dive into the details of this project, to come up with the economics of this projects.

“The number bombers are going to continue to speculate, pontificate and prevaricate, but we are getting on with the people's business here.”

(From Left to Right) Bob Richards, Minister of Finance , Martin Zablocki, president and CEO of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, Shawn Crockwell, Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, and John Beck, executive chairman of Aecon Group Inc are all smiles after the signing of the Airport Development Agreement. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published August 25, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 25, 2015 at 9:24 am)

Richards and CCC sign airport deal

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