Questions remain for Victoria stakeholders in demise of Provincial Capital Commission

Greater Victoria politicians, business operators weigh in on scrapping of Crown corporation as part of B.C. government's core review

The B.C. government’s intention to dissolve the Crown corporation responsible for Victoria’s most prized buildings is raising more questions than answers among local politicians and business operators.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett revealed Tuesday government plans to axe the Provincial Capital Commission next spring to save about $1 million annually as part of the province’s core review.

The PCC owns and leases downtown gems like St. Ann’s Academy, the former CPR Steamship Terminal building, Crystal Garden and Ship’s Point in the Inner Harbour. Saanich also leases much of Cuthbert Holmes Park from the PCC, and land parcels in View Royal and Langford are under similar agreements.

“I think the public has a right to be concerned about the future of these lands. They’re extremely important to our local economy and to our quality of life,” said Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, a PCC board director.

Isitt and fellow directors Shellie Gudgeon and Oak Bay Coun. Pam Copley have sent Premier Christy Clark an open letter requesting she provide long-term property plans for lessees and present a business case to demonstrate purported savings.

The directors are also concerned public representation could be lost on land development issues when the PCC’s 14-member board of directors is dissolved. Four local politicians from Victoria, Oak Bay and Esquimalt currently sit on the board.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard doesn’t anticipate any changes and said Cuthbert Holmes parkland is effectively owned by the province anyway.

“I think the land has always been provincial government. They’re just pulling it back into government rather than an arm’s length commission,” he said.

In terms of dissolving the PCC, Leonard said the commission is a shadow of its former self, which in the past was active in promoting the Capital Region, and involved in projects like building the Blenkinsop Trestle and rehabilitating St. Ann’s Academy.

“Where we are at today its not much of a loss. (The PCC) has really just maintained a property management function for recent years. I remember when it was a dynamic body with a vision for the region,” he said. “Clearly those days are long gone. Pulling into government will make little difference. It’s a long way from what it could have been.”

The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development will absorb most of the PCC’s staff and responsibilities including administration of the B.C. Youth Parliament and other outreach programs that provide economic stimulus to the capital, said Minister Coralee Oakes.

“We have a transition team currently working on (the vision for the properties),” said Oakes, though she was more vague on long-term ownership options for PCC buildings.

“We’ve been moving away from properties and focusing on the celebration side of what the PCC does,” she said.

The Transportation Ministry is poised to take over the PCC’s Belleville ferry terminals used by the Coho ferry and Victoria Clippers, a portion of which which requires an estimated $10-million replacement in the next few years.

“The dock is definitely at the end of its life and the province is aware of that,” said Black Ball Ferry Line president Ryan Burles, whose lease with the PCC expires in 2014 and requires renegotiation.

“The PCC was certainly a good landlord and we dealt with them since their creation, so we’ve had a good rapport. But we also have a good rapport with the province. There needs to be a plan going forward to renew (the terminal) and we’re happy to work with the government,” he said.

PCC chair David Everett, who will shepherd the organization through transitional planning, said he wasn’t surprised by the government’s announcement because Shared Services B.C. has been involved with PCC operations for more than a year.

“I think it’s business as usual, quite frankly,” he said. “The overall emphasis is to protect these iconic heritage properties for the benefit of all Victorians, especially the Inner Harbour sites.”

The B.C. government intends to cut $50 million from its budget by next year through a core review of services.

On Tuesday, Bennett also announced the scrapping of Crown corporation Pacific Carbon Trust in favour of an in-house environmental ministry model to save $5.6 million annually by 2015.

Both measures require legislative changes in 2014 before taking effect.

Further announcements are expected in the coming months.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich teen launches free online tutoring website

School Helpers matches volunteer tutors with students

Greater Victoria transit usage sees gradual rise

Ridership still down 66 per cent compared to last year

People-less protest in Victoria holds space for victims of police brutality, systematic racism

People are asked to come learn the names of the lives lost to the hands of racism

Victoria police arrest two people during ‘tweet-a-long’ Strike Force operation

VicPD offering ‘behind the scenes’ look at the operation

VIDEO: View Royal resident spots cougar in nearby backyard

B.C. Conservation notified about early Thursday morning sighting

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Most Read