Bad optics? B.C. government under fire again for $800M museum rebuild

For the second day in a row the NDP government was under fire for its decision to replace a museum at a cost of $800 million, with both opposition parties on the offensive, but for very different reasons.

Bad optics, bad math, bad planning. That's how BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon characterized the plan to replace the Royal BC Museum. He questioned whether the project can come in at the $789 million price tag, because a business case and designs haven't been made public.

"If this premier is so stubbornly wanting to go ahead with one of the dumbest capital decisions I've seen since they cancelled the 10-lane Massey bridge that would have been opening this summer," Falcon started during Question Period Tuesday, "Then British Columbians deserve to see a full and unredacted business case."

Melanie Mark, the minister for Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport told reporters the business case will be released this week.

"We looked at all the factors. The idea of whether we update the museum was considered, whether we move to another community but the decision that was given to us, sorry the advice given to us, was that we rebuild the museum," she added.

The BC Greens raised a different concern. Adam Olson, the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands pointed out many of the so-called artifacts here in Victoria are important cultural pieces stolen from First Nations. He also pointed out that a recent review found Indigenous people working at the museum faced racism.

"This announcement brought me to tears multiple times this weekend, right here," said Olson in the chamber, as he pointed to his chest. "The cultural significance that museums and the premier call 'artifacts' are not oddities from another century. They are meaningful to our living and breathing cultures."

The province insisted the re-build is part of the reconciliation process.

"All members in these chambers voted for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people. We are going to do things differently. That includes repatriation. That is a part of our action plan," added Mark, referencing the province's plan to deal with reconciliation.

On Friday when the province announced the plan to make the museum accessible and bring it up to code, several First Nations leaders voiced their support.

The province plans to consult on different aspects of the rebuild and has so far given no sign of backing down on the decision to rebuild the museum.