Parcels of Crown land on Burke Mountain, north of the Fraser River at Coquitlam, sold in 2014. (Ministry of Citizens’ Services)

Land sale went through under market value, B.C. auditor confirms

No bias or bid rigging found, NDP government hiring consultant

B.C.’s auditor general has confirmed a 2014 sale of provincial Crown land for development in the Lower Mainland was for as little as two thirds of its appraised value, but concludes there was no collusion or bid rigging involved in the sale.

Auditor General Carole Bellringer’s report on the two-year program of asset sales by the B.C. Liberal government raised 97 per cent of the appraised value of properties, except for a group of parcels on Burke Mountain in Coquitlam.

Of the 21 parcels covering 584 acres, 14 were sold to a single bidder, Wesbild Holdings Ltd., a long-time residential developer in the region. The price of $85 million represented 66 per cent of the value.

The sale of another four parcels in the same group to the City of Coquitlam for $11.8 million netted 80 per cent of the value.

At the time, local MLA Mike Farnworth said the hot real estate market and significant development already completed in the Burke Mountain area made the Wesbild deal look like a “fire sale.” The NDP traced $900,000 in donations to the B.C. Liberal Party from Wesbild director Hassan Khosrowshahi since 2000, individually and through his companies, Burke Mountain, Wesbild, Predator Ridge, Inwest, Westwood Plateau and others.

Farnworth and NDP leader John Horgan accused the B.C. Liberal government of rushing the sale to have it on the books by the end of the 2014 fiscal year, to improve their financial picture in the wake of the harmonized sales tax withdrawal.

“We did not find any evidence of bid rigging, collusion or bias during this audit,” Bellringer said in the report. “However, bias in relation to some of the sale was perceived and raised in the legislature and reported in the media.”

The report notes that the real estate marketing was conducted by Colliers International after an open bid for the job. Bellringer recommends the province’s property agency get individual bids on properties rather than group bids that took place at Burke Mountain.

The remainder of the sales in the “release of assets for economic generation” program, from 2013 to 2015, had prices amounting to 97 per cent of appraised value, the audit concluded.

Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims said the B.C. government has already made significant changes to its Crown land sale system, and is bringing in an independent consultant to look for further improvements.

Sims said the sale came at a time when the B.C. Liberal government was in a hurry to raise a certain amount of money through asset sales before an election where they needed to show a balanced budget.

The procedure has been changed to make sure each individual parcel of Crown land is examined for value and potential use, such as a school or hospital, Sims said. She pointed to the lack of schools in the region of Coquitlam where the developments occurred, and the sale of a Crown parcel in Surrey that had been designated for a new hospital.

Just Posted

Transition Society hosts exhibit on addiction portrayed through art

Prince Rupert show gave artists an opportunity to express how they view addiction

Wind warning for northwest B.C.

Environment Canada states 80-100 kilometre per hour winds expected until the afternoon

Trailer comes off its hitch on McBride

Morning traffic in Prince Rupert while the crane truck lifted its trailer back on the vehicle

Where are the crosswalk upgrades in Prince Rupert?

New LED lights and countdown timers are expected to be installed this winter

PHOTOS and VIDEO: Rupert recognizes 100 days since Armistice

Residents surrounded the cenotaph on the courthouse lawns on Remembrance Day

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Delivering the paper as a family

The Northern View is looking for newspaper carriers in Prince Rupert, join our team today

West Fraser to reduce sawmill production in Quesnel, Fraser Lake

The move will affect 75 employees in Quesnel, 60 in Fraser Lake

Kuhnhackl scores 2 odd goals as Isles dump Canucks 5-2

Vancouver drops second game in two nights

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Most Read