Vancouver Sun

Stephen Harper bird sanc­tu­ary hits snags

- TrisTin Hop­per Canada News · Middle East Politics · Politics · Stephen Harper · Turkey · Israel · Linda Frum Sokolowski · Jewish National Fund

An Is­raeli bird sanc­tu­ary named af­ter Stephen Harper is more than a year be­hind sched­ule af­ter run­ning into a se­ries of es­ca­lat­ing cost over­runs.

“The de­lays are dis­ap­point­ing, but we have been told the new com­ple­tion date is sum­mer 2019,” wrote Con­ser­va­tive Sen­a­tor Linda Frum in a mes­sage to the Na­tional Post.

To­gether with her hus­band, Howard Sokolowski, Frum helped to spear­head the gath­er­ing of Cana­dian do­na­tions for the project in 2013. Next week, she is trav­el­ling to Is­rael to per­son­ally in­spect the state of con­struc­tion.

“We feel a per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity to see the project com­pleted and well ex­e­cuted,” she said.

The project’s full name is the Stephen J. Harper Hula Val­ley Bird Sanc­tu­ary, Vis­i­tor and Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre.

Ini­tially, the fa­cil­ity was sup­posed to be funded al­most en­tirely by $5.7 mil­lion raised at a 2013 fundraiser for then prime min­is­ter Harper.

Or­ga­nized by the Cana­dian branch of the Jewish Na­tional Fund, at the time it was cited as the most suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing cam­paign in the group’s his­tory.

Fea­tur­ing a mu­si­cal per­for­mance by Harper at the key­board, it was also claimed to be the largest din­ner ever hosted for a sit­ting Cana­dian prime min­is­ter.

How­ever, af­ter the reins were handed to the Is­raeli NGO Keren-Kayemet L’Yis­rael, costs quickly be­gan to mount.

“The de­vel­op­ment of the build­ing was slowed by the in­tro­duc­tion of new el­e­ments into the de­sign which re­quired de­tailed plan­ning, engi­neer­ing, per­mits and govern­men­tal ap­provals,” Lance Davis, CEO of JNF Canada, said in an email.

He added, “of course we would like the project to be fin­ished as pro­jected, but the con­struc­tion de­lays are within rea­son for a project of this size.”

The tab for the project now ex­ceeds $12 mil­lion. How­ever, the ex­tra ex­pense is be­ing cov­ered solely by Keren-Kayemet L’Yis­rael.

Said Davis, “The JNF Canada com­mit­ment has re­mained static.”

Orig­i­nally in­tended to be com­pleted in four years, the build­ing re­mains vis­i­bly un­fin­ished.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Cana­dian Jewish News found that the site has an “air of aban­don­ment” with only the barest form of a struc­ture tak­ing shape.

Davis told the Na­tional Post “work at the site is reg­u­lar and on­go­ing.” Con­crete pour­ing is ex­pected to be fin­ished by Fe­bru­ary, with steel struc­tures be­ing in­stalled shortly there­after.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada