CPR bid process gets personal

Proponent enraged by process that rejected all bids for CPR Steamship Terminal

In a charged letter to B.C. Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong, Oak Bay businessman Bob Wright has condemned a process that rejected his proposal for the CPR Steamship Terminal.

“In my opinion the (Provincial Capital Commission) is not effectively managing the assets entrusted to it on behalf of the people of British Columbia,” he wrote in a letter dated April 14.

Wright of the Oak Bay Marine Group and two others learned April 12 the PCC rejected all three bids to lease the prime real estate at 468-470 Belleville St. The downtown building was previously home to the Royal London Wax Museum.

Other bids came from the Maritime Museum of B.C., seeking to relocate from Bastion Square, and from Matt MacNeil who proposed a Steamship Marketplace.

According to the PCC, a five-person evaluation panel “concluded that evaluations of the three proposals could not be completed due to insufficient information.”

In the case of the Oak Bay Marine Group, which proposed a high-tech museum on British Columbia’s history, the PCC said: “No business plan was provided to demonstrate assumptions supporting the attraction’s viability and no fixturing costs were provided.”

Wright disputes this conclusion.

“Although not a requirement of the original RFP (request for proposals), a business plan was demanded on March 23 to be in the hands of the PCC by March 25, an impossible timeline,” he wrote in his letter.

PCC CEO Ray Parks confirmed the dates of the request and deadline. He defended the process, however.

“When one considers the magnitude of the project … one would assume that before you spend $10 million, you’d know what you’re going to do with it, that (Wright) would have something of a plan, or an idea or a general draft,” Parks said.

Wright’s dispute also involves the financial assurances he provided.

“We were prepared to have Oak Bay Marina Ltd sign the lease thereby giving the PCC a covenant backed conservatively with over $100 million in assets,” Wright wrote. “Also, surplus income from our existing businesses is capable of handling the proposed lease obligation, and this was clearly confirmed in the letters submitted from our two banks.”

Parks, however, explains letters from the banks didn’t provide enough information.

“(Wright) has a fantastic reputation and a great track record,” Parks said. Wright’s paperwork proved he had adequate assets  but not that he could sustain it over time, he said. “I think he was suggesting that reputation was enough.”

Lastly, Wright’s letter takes a personal turn.

It speculates about a hidden agenda and a $15,000 contribution from Parks to Barry Hobbis’ unsuccessful campaign for Victoria city council.

“They should have just come along and said ‘We don’t want (my proposal) in the building,’ and I would understand that,” Wright said in an interview.

In response, Parks declared his contribution to the Hobbis campaign was drawn entirely from his personal business, and none from other unnamed parties.

He also points out the decision to reject all three bids was made by consensus by the evaluation panel, and the process was managed by Ernst and Young LLP, an international accounting firm

It’s about taking extra care and due diligence, Parks said.

rholmen@vicnews.com