Former B.C. transportation minister Todd Stone is defending himself after the release of a 2015 video that shows him giving away an ICBC building to the Automotive Retailers Association (ARA).
In the video, Stone is seen speaking to members of the organization as part of their annual general meeting.
“I am pleased to announce today that I have directed ICBC to reach out to the ARA to establish a memorandum of understanding to transition accountability for technical repair training from ICBC to the ARA,” Stone said in 2015.
“An important part of this is the ICBC training facility in Burnaby.”
As soon as Stone mentioned the training facility someone from the crowd is heard on the video shouting, “You are giving it to us.” The comment was met by laughter and applause from the group.
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“I’m pleased to announce as part of the announcement I have asked ICBC to transfer the training facility from their ownership and control to the ownership and control of the ARA,” Stone finished.
Speaking about the video four years later, Stone says after the announcement there were conversations with both the ARA and New Car Retailers Association. Stone says ICBC loses money on technical training and an outside organization potentially could have done it better.
At the time the building in Burnaby was worth around $3 million and is now worth more than $5 million.
“It didn’t happen. The number one principle we had going into that deal is that anything we do has to be in the best interest of ratepayers, in the best interest of ICBC,” Stone said.
The issue was first raised in Question Period last week when Attorney General David Eby responded to a question from Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson by telling a story of a member “who didn’t have the stones to stand up today to ask a question about ICBC.”
“Obviously, the minister wouldn’t give away a multimillion-dollar building from an insurance corporation that was losing money. But in fact, he was,” Eby continued on.
“There should have been a gasp from ratepayers, but they didn’t know about it, because there was no press release. There should have been a gasp from the board, but the minister was out on his own. You couldn’t legally do it, and he wasn’t able to follow through.”
Stone took umbrage at Eby’s remarks.
“To have the attorney general in a mocking way take shots at my family name has no place in the chamber, has no place outside the chamber,” he said.
ICBC continues to be a major political hot potato. The Liberals are accusing the current government of unfairly increasing insurance rates for families with inexperienced drivers.
The NDP are quick to point out the fiscal mismanagement at the public insurer started under the Liberals.
“They put a limit on the maximum rate increase, which while ICBC revenues stayed about the same ICBC was losing more and more each year. They tried to hide the problems by artificially keeping rates down, by not making the changes necessary,” Eby said on Tuesday.
“Giving away a $5-million building, as outrageous as that is, is just a small part of the negligence.”