Book Reviews

Book Review: Failures and atlantic Canada’s biggest boondoggles


Most Ontarians know how leading politicians spend taxpayers’ precious money for projects in an attempt to be re-elected.

We all know that big projects attract only big, politically well-connected companies to bid on. There are, in every segment of the economy, only a few large companies all of which are encouraged to bid high, mostly because of the scarce number of applicants.

Once a company gets the contract, the cost starts to increase, sometimes due to inflation, at other times due to mismanagement and changing economic conditions, sometimes because of unexpected planning oversights or errors. Regardless, a large project that would initially cost one billion ends up costing multiples of the winning bid.

Any large project is subject to increase from its budgeted or projected cost.

Failures and Atlantic Canada’s Biggest Boondoggles by Dan Soucoup is an excellent expose for all politicians, citizens to read in an attempt to understand how such failures occur.

For example one particular project in Newfoundland projected to cost $ 20 million in 1988 dollars to start a greenhouse to grow cucumbers for the province and for export to other provinces. The project was “sold” by a self-confessed horticulturist, Philip Sprung, to the premier at the time Brian Peckford.

From the beginning, the project was doomed to fail but the premier never consulted independent consultants or experts in his own government.

It ended up costing several more millions to the taxpayer of the province.

In all, the author explains in some detail how 25 projects that each cost millions more than originally projected, and no one was held accountable.

The Bricklin fiasco was from the get-go a project to fail from several perspectives – location of the plant being first, then the concept, delivery of parts, planning, design, research, and assembly being others.

In the end, it cost millions more than projected and the plant had to be closed. This could have been prevented if politicians only bothered to consult a few knowledgeable independent consultants.

Overall, this is a book for all to read and draw conclusions. Hopefully, leading politicians will be very careful with public funds in the future.

Of course, there is never a guarantee, but one can always hope.

After all these failures, the former premier of Ontario committed two huge mistakes that will cost taxpayers more than a few billion dollars once everything is paid for.

This is a book that I recommend highly to everyone, particularly political sconce professors and students, politicians and the public at large.

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