Saanich council’s two representatives on the Provincial Capital Commission have resigned following the revelation that the provincial government will sell off millions of dollars worth of surplus provincial land.
Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock tendered his resignation to PCC board chair Bill Wellburn this morning (Thursday). Councillor Nichola Wade also stepped down Thursday morning.
“The recent announcement of the sale of Crown properties, properties in the Capital, confirmed my suspicion and fear that these properties were at risk,” Murdock said. “It’s unclear which properties would be for sale, but it became clear that some of the properties managed by the PCC would be part of that potential sale, and for me, I fundamentally disagree with that direction, and I won’t participate in that process.”
Victoria councillor Geoff Young stepped down from the PCC Wednesday amid similar concerns.
It was learned on Tuesday, as part of the province’s 2012 budget, that the cash-strapped government will put 100 or so properties up for sale to help minimize a projected $969-million deficit.
“It came as a bit of a surprise, although everyone was told we could expect some surprises in it. To me, it’s a measure which I think is a short-term cash infusion at the expense of the long-term enjoyment of these assets.”
For Wade, she says her day job working in the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation could have been a conflict of interest.
“I have, as a provincial government employee, a sworn oath of office to the Crown, and I would not want to be in a position where there would be a conflict with that oath,” she said. “I think things are getting to a point where, with the way things are playing out, there could be a conflict with that oath.”
In Saanich, the eight-hectare Cuthbert Holmes Park is PCC land, leased to the municipality for 99 years for $1. The current lease agreement expires in December 2086.
“There’s no indication that would be one of the properties that would be up for sale – but there is a possibility, and I disagree with that,” Murdock said.
Murdock has sat on the PCC board since 2008. He also voiced concerns in January when it was announced that the PCC would be restructured.
“I made my objections clear to the board chair and the board members that I disagreed with that direction because it put heritage properties the PCC manages at risk,” Murdock said.
When asked why he’d rather resign than stay on the board and be a vocal opponent to the decision, Murdock reiterated that he has voiced his concerns in the past, and he didn’t want to be part of the direction the PCC was “clearly” going.
He informed Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, who appoints councillors to the commission, of his resignation this morning. Wade has sat on the board since December 2011.
The PCC board is made up of 14 directors: six Capital Region councillors and eight appointments by the Lieutenant Governor.
– with files from Black Press