VICTORIA — The British Columbia government will lay out its case for building a new Royal B.C. Museum after the Opposition took aim at the initiative as a "billion-dollar vanity project."
Tourism Minister Melanie Mark said Thursday there has been interest in the business case since the government announced the $789-million rebuilding plan last Friday.
The government will release its business case next Wednesday, she said in a statement.
Last week, Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said he would halt building plans if elected premier, while he criticized the timing of Premier John Horgan's announcement of the project, which comes as the province faces a doctors' shortage and soaring cost of living.
Falcon called on the NDP to use the money earmarked for the project to help people pay their bills instead.
Horgan defended his government’s decision to go ahead with the museum project Thursday.
"I very much regret that the jewel of our collective history, the Royal B.C. Museum, has become a political football," he told a news conference.
"It certainly was not our intention to appear to be tone deaf to the challenges British Columbians are facing. I know full well the impact of high gas prices on the stresses of meeting family budgets, the challenges of inflation right across the board."
The museum has been in a difficult position for about two decades, he added.
Museum executives and board members have been highlighting its problems not just to his government but previous ones too, he said. At risk are the "priceless artifacts" that detail Indigenous and immigrant histories, and flora and fauna that no longer exist because of climate change.
"The museum holds our collective history."
The building is seismically unsound and also has asbestos, all of which is concerning since it is visited by hundreds of schoolchildren every year, Horgan said.
"I don't believe that the public has had a chance to fully understand how we got here," he said. "I think the shock of an announcement that was not characterized appropriately has led to some of the hard feelings."
The museum renovation project has been discussed for five years with public engagement delayed by the pandemic, he said.
"I don't blame the official Opposition for being the official Opposition," Horgan said.
"But I am curious as to why they would have ignored this question for 12 years, and then all of a sudden decide that it is a negative rather than a positive to the people of B.C."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.
The Canadian Press