Do Vancouver & B.C. need a Charbonneau Commission? South Vancouver Parks Society might be showing the way.

Dollars, credit Desmog blog CanadaThe faces, names and details may be different, but do British Columbia and Vancouver need the equivalent of Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission. (Wikipedia does a concise summary of that commission, which we excerpt below.) The Quebec version focused specifically on potential corruption in the management of public construction contracts, but perhaps BC needs to delve into a lot more.

Revelations and actions by the South Vancouver Parks Society may be giving some clues, but until there is a more robust institutional response by professional associations, government authorities, or law enforcement, to many eyebrow-raisers that have been pointed out, this work is left up to investigative reporters and persistent citizens. It is complicated stuff and requires forensic research and an understanding of how deals are made.

Pieces of puzzles appear every now and then, but who is going to put it all together? SVPS has been spending a lot of volunteer time to investigate numerous property swaps/sales and property assessment deals. As we reported separately, last week they were in BC Supreme Court with one case, and this Friday (March 3, 2017), they are seeing the B.C. Property Assessment Review Panel regarding four cases. We encourage the public to follow these cases. See “ ‘Vastly under-assessed’: Is public being short-changed on major assessments and deals (Oakridge Centre, 508 Helmcken, 949 W41st transit site, Langara Gardens)?” All of these cases involved the public interest due to their impacts on the disposition of public land (i.e., assets) or for impacts on taxes (i.e., public revenues).

On the weekend, SVPS released some new information. They have done a lot of work, but until sufficient public resources are committed to investigating and pursuing these kinds of topics, perhaps “crowd sourcing” of expertise is needed to delve further. Below are brief intros two some of their posts over the weekend.

Bottom line question: Are the public institutions looking after the public interest?

City Approved $50million Reduction to Sale Property “508 Helmcken”: Not only was the City required to approve the privately arranged $50 million [Section 10(2) BC Assessment Act] amendment, to reduce the value of 508 Helmcken as the City’s land was being sold, but a Secret City expense account looks like it may have funded efforts to get it done. Either way, the City completely ignored the value of a $50+million unconditional land interest in order to possibly save a few dollars in taxes for a tenant that had their tax increase covered anyway?…

508 Helmcken Analysis Contract: SVPS releases documents involving a contract by the City of Vancouver to evaluate the property at 508 Helmcken, subject of a land swap of public land with a private developer. Mentions a major accounting firm, appraisal firm, and real estate marketing firm…

Expense Account: Through FOI and recent In Camera meeting disclosures, the South Vancouver Parks Society has become aware of how City staff created a discrete expense account to carry out specific contracting surrounding the sale of 508 Helmcken (the “508 Sale”). The discrete expense account has made their disclosure of the City’s related contracting almost undetectable….

No Report Required: YouTube video, published Feb 24, 2017.
On May 27, 2015 it was confirmed that the Oakridge assessment $367 million dollar reduction was achieved without any written documentation required. This brief recording was made in a non confidential PAAB Appeal management conference. This PAAB appeal never held a settlement conference. The BC property Assessment Appeal Board describes the Appeal process in its procedures section. The voices are Glen Chernen of the South Vancouver Parks Society, and of the lawyers for BC Assessment and the land owner.

No Report Required: On May 27, 2015 the South Vancouver Parks Society was a participant in a BC Property Assessment Appeal Board, appeal meeting. It was our first meeting of the appeal process after we had filed our appeal on April 30, 2015 with the representation of professional appraiser, Mr Jason Upton. Our appraiser had previously provided us an appraisal representing the value of the Oakridge Centre property and a debt security attached to the land title which was owned by the City. The debt security represented 10% of the current actual market value of the property and there are strict legal rules attached to that debt and the collection of that debt. The City never made full public disclosure on the true significance, ownership rights, and requirements attached to this debt security, secured by the City ownership to the 10% absolute fee simple interest of Oakridge Centre. The City also owns a purchase right to approximately 3% of the fee-simple interest of Oakridge Centre for a fee of $660,000.

July 5, 2016. BC Assessment FOI Correspondence – Oakridge Lands. Copies of FOI requests and more.


Wikipedia excerpt:

The Charbonneau Commission, officially the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry, is a public inquiry in Quebec, Canada into potential corruption in the management of public construction contracts.

The commission was enacted on 19 October 2011 by the provincial Liberal government of Jean Charest, and is chaired by Justice France Charbonneau. The mandate of the Committee is to:

  1. Examine the existence of schemes and, where appropriate, to paint a portrait of activities involving collusion and corruption in the provision and management of public contracts in the construction industry (including private organizations, government enterprises and municipalities) and to include any links with the financing of political parties.
  2. Paint a picture of possible organized crime infiltration in the construction industry.
  3. Examine possible solutions and make recommendations establishing measures to identify, reduce and prevent collusion and corruption in awarding and managing public contracts in the construction industry.


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