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

Vancouver Island pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Small homeless camp removed at Horth Hill Regional Park in North Saanich

CRD staff say the camp is not connected to Camp Namegans in Goldstream

Expect traffic delays at Burnside and Douglas this week for new bus lanes

Prep work runs Tuesday through Thursday while paving takes place Friday

Cool Aid Society cleans up Woodwynn Farms

Casual labour pool helps to clear debris

Victoria police searching for missing 18-year-old

Austin Bennett-Frechette is known to frequent the Greater Victoria Public Library

UrbaCity raises record-breaking $70,000 for Island Prostate Centre

240 racers, corporate sponsors fill the coffers for the cause

Vancouver Island designated as foreign trade zone

Designation simplifies importing and exporting and provides duty relief

Edmonton cannabis company revenues more than triples to $19.1 million

Aurora Cannabis revenues more than triple in fourth quarter

Seattle one step closer to NHL after arena plan approved

Seattle City Council unanimously approved plans for a privately funded $700 million renovation of KeyArena

Harvest Moon to light up B.C. skies with an ‘autumn hue’

It’s the first moon after the autumn equinox

Hockey league gets $1.4M for assistance program after Humboldt Broncos crash

Program will help players, families, coaches and volunteers after the shock of the deadly crash

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Ottawa had said the ‘overwhelming majority’ had been removed

Appeal pipeline decision but consult Indigenous communities, Scheer says

The federal appeals court halted the Trans Mountain expansion last month

Most Read