Things that make you go Hmmmmm, Mike Bernier vs VSB edition

The ongoing friction between school boards vs.  Education Minister Mike Bernier heated up yesterday,thanks to this: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016EDUC0063-001189

“I am disappointed that the Vancouver School Board chose to go against the School Act by failing to adopt a balanced budget.

“Our offer was a simple one – we gave them the go-ahead to sell Kingsgate Mall and put the proceeds back into education services. We backed that up with a guarantee of almost $6 million in exchange for a small ownership share in the mall if the sale does not happen in the next school year. Either option would have made sure the budget was balanced in Vancouver.

“This proposal gave them the time and the resources they needed to avoid cuts, and they chose to reject that.

“Just like many parents, I am disappointed that the Vancouver School Board has put their desire to own a mall ahead of services for students. Combined with their continued investment of $37 million a year in empty seats, the VSB seems to have forgotten its mission is to educate students – not maintain ownership of as much property as possible.”

Earlier this year the school board considered many options to meet budget shortfalls and at one point considering the sale of the land Kingsgate mall sits on. The land is owned by the VSB, the mall buildings belong to the Beedie group on a long term lease, and brings in $750,000 a year in stable revenue for the school board.

The Vancouver School board decided for a variety of reasons,that selling the land itself at this point is not an option – in my opinion it’s a smart move to keep a stable revenue source for the district, when you consider how this government funds education.

I’m told the VSB never planned to sell the actual land itself – just possibly some air space above that would allow them to raise some capital and maintain future lease revenue (which they do use for operating). VSB never intended to use any Kingsgate capital proceeds for operating funds-the plan was to use those proceeds for capital upgrades to be done in conjunction with future seismic upgrades.

However, the reaction from Bernier on social media did not go un-noticed,nor did the immediate response of not only communications staffers in the BC government, but Liberal party partisan accounts and  partisan digital influencers.

What wasn’t largely known to the public yesterday is that the VSB has been in talks with the leaseholder and had specifically asked Bernier not to release information to avoid harming the ongoing business talks – I’ve confirmed the date on this letter was a typo and the letter was sent to Bernier yesterday :

Hmm. Why would Bernier take to social media to push a sale, when it could potentially harm or influence business dealings between the VSB and Beedie ? When he was asked under the Freedom of Information and Privacy act not to?

 

Hmmm.

Isn’t that something? The total for all donations under Beedies various entities to the BC Liberals is $307,915.00 between January 2005 and today. http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=beedie&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=2016%2f06%2f30&DateFrom=2005%2f01%2f01&DFYear=2005&DFMonth=01&DFDay=01&DTYear=2016&DTMonth=06&DTDay=30

Was Bernier deliberately trying to interfere with those negotiations? And for what purpose?

 

The entire thing is a bit surreal.

Government forces all these boards to make cuts to meet their budget legislation, then sends out Bernier like knight on a white horse tossing $$$ to districts where parents might vote out their Liberal MLA’s – which didn’t fly with parents-and now this?

How in the world does Mike Bernier still have a position as cabinet minster?

It reminds me of the debacle in Surrey where the Clark government sold so-called ‘surplus’ land in Sullivan, an area with over-crowded schools and non-stop development, while the Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt said and did nothing.

Fast forward a year and a half later? After growing public outrage over the massive development the owner of the surplus land wants to build results in a sudden round of meetings with the finance minister and Bernier, suddenly schools are announced and an addition fast-tracked past other projects, to specifically sweeten the developers proposal….

Convenient, no?

Proving once again that the Liberal method of selling things off to meet budgets,will always cost them ( and us) more in the long run thanks to poor planning and vision. It’s reactive policy,not proactive management.

Which really makes me question the motive for not only Berniers actions last night, but the government communications staffers and partisan Liberal accounts as well.

 

27 thoughts on “Things that make you go Hmmmmm, Mike Bernier vs VSB edition

  1. Lew

    http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2305/index.do

    CITATION: R. v. Boulanger, [2006] 2 S.C.R. 49, 2006 SCC 32

    “58 I conclude that the offence of breach of trust by a public officer will be established where the Crown proves beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:

    1. The accused is an official;

    2. The accused was acting in connection with the duties of his or her office;

    3. The accused breached the standard of responsibility and conduct demanded of him or her by the nature of the office;

    4. The conduct of the accused represented a serious and marked departure from the standards expected of an individual in the accused’s position of public trust; and

    5. The accused acted with the intention to use his or her public office for a purpose other than the public good, for example, for a dishonest, partial, corrupt, or oppressive purpose.”

    In addition to asking why Bernier still has a job, is it not reasonable to ask why, when the elements above appear to apply directly to his actions in deliberately releasing (contrary to provincial legislation) information entrusted to him in his capacity as a public official, in an oppressive manner injurious to the public good, he is not charged under s122 of the Criminal Code of Canada?

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    1. Hawgwash

      Is there no legal means whereby I, a taxpayer, can insist the police investigate?
      Not just this matter either.
      In the absence of an opposition, what alternative is there?
      Rafe?

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      1. Lew

        Hawgwash, every citizen has the right to take information of possible contravention of the Criminal Code or provincial legislation to a judge in a private prosecution if the police will not investigate. However, the Attorney General has the right to intervene and take control of the case if the judge decides there is enough evidence to proceed, and in BC this invariably happens and the charges are then stayed by the Crown.

        Anyone who thinks the Attorney General’s Ministry in this province is impartial in matters of law hasn’t been paying attention. In fact, I assert that ministry, and in particular its Legal Services Branch, is very much a part of the problem we have with continued examples of an out of control government.

        The deck is stacked.

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        1. Hawgwash

          Yes Lew, I know how the system works, or doesn’t. I just thought if I stuck my head where there is no sun, for just a moment, I could ask that moot question.
          So incredibly pathetic.

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          1. Lew

            On the other hand, the VSB is authorized by legislation to form a corporation for business purposes, which probably was done in relation to the mall lease. Maybe it should commence a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation for damages to its negotiating position caused by the actions of the provincial government.

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  2. If Bernier’s logic of saving money is by counting empty seats, why not sell the BC Legislature?

    95% of school seats must be occupied to get funding, the same doesn’t hold true when Christy Clark flies at fifty percent of capacity. She should take more OIC Appointees, not just the videographer.

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  3. Some thoughts…

    In 2003, our dear leader changed the school act to allow school districts to in effect “sell” the BC Curriculum to Japan, Taiwan and China and to run schools there. How is leasing a mall different from doing that?

    Would also be interesting to calculate the value of that land they sold in Surrey in today’s dollars to show how much was lost in the sale and compare that to how much it costs to buy more land for new schools in Surrey now.

    Thank you so much for all that you do!

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  4. Dave

    S .Anton is dumber than a sack of spuds and needs surgery to have her nose removed from you know where from you know whose a pair of half twits a petition should be sent to police and the justice branch,if nothing else it might get some publicity [not the kind they like} i feel the tide is over taking these blood suckers shame on Beedies. People on the street, coffee tables in malls are fodder against these parasites.

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  5. If you try to solve an income problem by selling assets, you aren’t solving the problem. You are just postponing it. The VSB has a income problem — they do not receive enough money from the provincial government. In fact, per student education funding in BC is second-lowest in the country. Sell Kingsgate Mall now, use the sale proceeds to solve your problem temporarily, and once that money has been spent, you’re back to where you started, but now without even the revenue that Kingsgate Mall generates every year for the VSB.

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  6. e.a.f.

    I have always been of the opinion that the B.C. Lieberals wanted this “fight” with the school boards of Greater Vancouver because their developer buddies and supporters wanted the land the schools sat on. Its just all those developers wanting the land. Now its very clear with Benier fronting for the Beedie group.

    In Richmond the school board sold the land Steveston High school sat on. why? who knows at the rate Richmond is growing. the fun part, the new owner built homes alright and when they went on the market no one locally was able to purchase a home. Word is they were all sold in China two days prior to the opening of sales.

    When a government sells their land, they sell the future of their country. Government aren’t there to conduct the business of today, but for 50 to a 100 years from now. No publically held property ought to be sold now. The population in B.C. will most likely double in 50 years and we will need every inch we already own for community centres, hospitals, libraries, schools, et.c Only a fool or a cheat would sell school property now with no regard for tomorrow. Oh, well we already now what the B.C. Lieberals are and we know who donates to them. when you have a premier who skims on the take of fund raising soirees, it just about says it all. Now if parents, grandparents, etc. can just get their act together to vote for the future education of their families we could get rid of the bunch of idiot scammers.

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  7. David

    What kind of brilliance would bring Bernier to suggest the VSB sell an asset that is bringing in an annual income to the board for a one time cash infusion to pay down a deficit? Absolute stupidity to give up future income because Victoria underfunds education and insists individual boards make bad business decisions to make up for the neglect by the Provincial government .

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  8. nonconfidencevote

    Ahhhh. The irony of the Liberal govt releasing “unredacted” memos when it suits them( and when there has been no FOI request).
    But when an official FOI request is “granted” they break out the black marker and start covering ALL info! These people are so blatantly hypocritical its nauseating.

    Speaking of “nauseating”, “Christy” and “realtors”………
    Did anyone notice how unhappy she looked at her latest “presser” when she was announcing that “The real estate industry had 10 YEARS to get their self regulation in order” and it was now going to be regulated by the govt….Gee that wouldnt be because voters of ALL stripes are absolutely outraged and livid about the ridiculous real estate “market” we find ourselves in….now would it? Can you say ponzie?
    None of the politicians (Trudeau, Clark or Robertson) want to be the one that makes (regulatory, tax or non resident) changes that cause this entire “house of overpriced cards” to come crashing down with newly implemented laws…They’re like Lemmings pushing each other towards the “cliff” curious to see which one will “fall” first………
    The real estate industry is a poisoned chalice that she has repeatedly, happily, drank from time and time again because its suited HER financial agenda…….$50,000 cash supplements PER YEAR come to mind….perhaps because a private school education for her son is so expensive?.
    Must be real hard to slap the hands that feed her (Real Estate mega salesman Bob Rennie on her Liberal Fund raising board amoung many)when she’s heading into the final year of an election campaign……
    This just gets better and better.

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  9. Veronica Talem

    Apart from the debate whether agencies like a school district should get involved in business risks, the reality is that if a public body like a school board is in private endeavours on the side (of there core responsibilities), it is essential that there be full disclosure of its affairs. If that involves other businesses (in this case, they selected Beedie), the board should require consent so that the 3rd party business does not object to disclosure. Given that the consent requirement doesn’t exist and yet Beedie still has no objections to info release, it remains that the VSB has a preference (which they openly and vigorously defend), to conceal the info from public and media.

    The various conspiracy theories mentioned in some of the comments are silly.

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    1. Laila Yuile

      Conspiracy theories is a convenient fall back for those trying to negate the situation.However anyone with a bit of business acumen will tell, and have here, that in negotiations on lease terms,neither side would be tipping their hand publicly because in doing so, it may reveal info to the other party that can harm negotiations. Standard in any business transaction. Of course Beedie has no objections to info release-it may indeed work to his advantage considering the province has now expressed interest in retaining some ownership.

      The question remains as to why Bernier did not deem, as education minister, to find out the facts before releasing the letter. He looks like a bumbling fool in his position. And considering how much Beedie has donated to the Liberals in various forms, that is anything but a red herring my dear.

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    2. Lew

      Veronica, are you suggesting that all government contracts should contain a mandatory requirement that the contractor agrees to full disclosure? Would that include the P3s the government is fond of using for public infrastructure?

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  10. Veronica Talem

    We now wait for the Board to provide material evidence that the Minister – who would be berated if he did NOT express an opinion of public interest in the sphere in which he is responsible – was the sole & direct cause of substantial damage, and that damage can be clearly proven & quantified. Twitter and kkoky blogs don’t count as a forum for that adjudication, it needs to have reason. Where will the accusations go? Nowhere. Watch.

    In the mean time, here’s another con theory for you to chase; Dix & Horgan advising the Board on potential benefits of backdating letters.

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    1. Lew

      Veronica, expressing an opinion on a matter of public interest is quite different from the Minister’s duty under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As for whether the damages caused by that action are substantive and legally demonstrable, that’s up to the aggrieved party. So you’re correct; we wait. We seem to wait a lot under this government to see if its actions are illegal or simply unethical.

      Now, on the topic of backdating, here’s a bit of backdating for you to chase.

      On October 20, 2010 the Deputy Minister of Finance signed a backdated release absolving David Basi and Bob Virk of liability for over $6.2 million in accumulated legal fees in relation to the BC Rail trial. There are at least three reasons why the Deputy Minister did not have the requisite authority to sign that document. Dix and Horgan should be busy advising the electorate on the real (not potential) harm done to the public as a result.

      I sent the Solicitor General an open letter regarding the three reasons the Deputy lacked authority and copied many in the MSM. Nobody has responded to illustrate why I am incorrect, including the aforementioned Mssrs. Dix and Horgan. Until and unless that happens, I consider my example of backdating much more serious than yours.

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      1. Lew

        Veronica, while you’re thinking about the answer to whether you support full disclosure for all public contracts, or just for the Vancouver School Board, and whether backdating documents is a problem only when the NDP is involved, you may be also able to help out with another issue.

        On November 26, 2015 Christy Clark flew to Haida Gwaii on a chartered jet to announce a $150,000 feasibility study on proposed school improvements in Old Massett. Apart from the debate about whether the province should be involved in funding for a school that is a federal responsibility, the questionable timing of the announcement that appears to have aided the narrow reelection of the Chief who Christy Clark says asked her directly for the funds, and the coincidental fact that the Chief supported her brother’s application for a wind farm in the area while his opponent did not, questions remain about the feasibility study.

        Since you are in favor of full disclosure in matters educational, can you help out with some of the details, which surely shouldn’t be confidential? Where are the source documents for the funding decision that are missing from the FOI disclosure to the NDP, when was the RFP for the study issued, what contractor was selected to conduct the study, and what are the start and completion dates? Maybe you can save the Minister from being berated for NOT providing these details “of public interest in the sphere in which he is responsible.”

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