B.C. ‘hosed’ in Burke Mountain land sale, says NDP

WATCH: The NDP raised some questions at the BC Legislature today during question period about the sale of land on Burke Mountain. Keith Baldrey reports.

VICTORIA – The Opposition New Democrats say British Columbians were “hosed” in a Crown land sale that was snapped up by a Liberal donor at $43 million below the appraised value.

Wesbild Holdings Ltd., founded by businessman Hassan Khosrowshahi, paid $85 million for 14 pieces of property in the Burke Mountain area of Coquitlam, just east of Vancouver.

NDP Leader John Horgan says one of the 14 lots was appraised at $5.6 million, but sold for $100,000, a price unheard of in Metro Vancouver’s sizzling real estate market.

Horgan says it appears the government also decided to sell the land after less than three months on the market in order to include the $85 million in the government’s 2014 budget.

Story continues below advertisement

Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services Minister Amrik Virk says the properties were marketed publicly by Colliers International, and the decision to sell to Wesbild was made on an offer for all 14 properties.

Port Coquitlam New Democrat Mike Farnworth is highly critical of the sale, saying taxpayers were hosed on the price, suggesting homeowners would never sell their houses at such a deep discount in what is considered a hot real estate market.

The NDP continued their criticism for a second day, alleging the government was fast-tracking the sale of additional properties at below-market rates in order to balance their budget.

“I have an e-mail from Mr. Jim Baker, the strategic properties lead in the Ministry of Citizens’ Services,” said NDP MLA Carole James in question period on Thursday.

“He wrote to his colleagues and said: “To be part of the sale and development of over eight hectares in Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour area is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an opportunity that normally would warrant years of planning and preparation. Unfortunately, we don’t have unlimited time. Our goal is to have for-sale signs up on October 31, with the sales in the bank by March 31, 2014.” My question is to the Premier. Why were government staff told to have “money in the bank” by the end of the fiscal year, even if it shortchanged taxpayers?”

However, Finance Minister Mike de Jong flatly rejected the charge.

Story continues below advertisement

“The difficulty with the theory being advanced by the member and her colleagues is it simply isn’t borne out by the facts, and it simply isn’t borne out by the manner in which these transactions occurred,” he said.

“The suggestion that the timing on these transactions was motivated by a fiscal imperative is not borne out by those numbers — nor, by the way, is it borne out by the fact that a number of the parcels involved are still on the market.”

WATCH: NDP keep up the attack on Burke Mountain land sale for a second game. Keith Baldrey reports.