———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Gerda Peachey <gerdapeachey@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 1:54 AM
Subject: Fwd:
To: Conflict of Interest <conflictofinterest@coibc.ca>, peter.fassbender.mla@leg.bc.ca, Darryl <Darryl.Plecas.MLA@leg.bc.ca>, “deJong.MLA, Mike” <Mike.deJong.MLA@leg.bc.ca>, Henry Braun <hbraun@abbotsford.ca>, George Murray <gmurray@abbotsford.ca>

To Paul D. Fraser:  Conflict of Interest Commissioner:

Dear Mr. Fraser:

As per instructions from Minister Fassbender’s office, I will follow this up with a signed letter in tomorrow’s mail.

The current process of providing notice of a Public Hearing about proposed discharges to Land Use Contracts in BC is designed to benefit those who govern the process, and invites conflict of interest by government insiders.

We in British Columbia, and specifically here in Abbotsford face a problem that has its origin in the Provincial Governments guidelines for municipal governance.

There are thousands of properties that currently fall under Provincial Land Use Contracts that will come up for Public Hearings, all to be discharged and finalized to a new local zoning, by the year 2024.  The Local Government Act stipulates that, “A Public Hearing, which cannot be waived, is held (LGAs, 892, 893)

People place a great deal of trust in the zoning of their land and the surrounding zoning, when they invest in the purchase land, so if that zoning is going to change, it is a good thing that the Provincial Government mandates there must be a Hearing, to allow the neighbourhood a meaningful voice in the decisions making process.

But the current notification time is woefully inadequate for public participation, so that in fact very few of the people affected have a reasonable chance of first, even knowing there is going to be a hearing, and secondly having sufficient time to do anything about informing themselves and engaging in the Hearing.

The Province says a municipality must notify affected neighbours a minimum of ten days in advance of a Hearing.  That minimum is what our Abbotsford City Hall stands on.  Consequently a postcard is mailed on the 13th or 12th day before a Hearing and can be received anywhere from 12 days,…..on down by neighbours.  In the case of my neighbourhood, and an LUC discharge begun July 11th….. the card arrived the day after the proposed July 25th Hearing,….Hearing cancelled because no Re-zoning sign was up.

So here the Province has set up a notice time so short, it guarantees a distinct advantage to developers and lawmakers. These know of the application months in advance, while affected neighbours may get a postcard while they are off on a short vacation,… about a Hearing that can be signed, sealed and delivered all while they are gone on a little two-week vacation.

This is a flawed system that invites corruption.  Land is one of the most valuable assets, and is  in diminishing supply, making speculators more eager to snap up affordable land everywhere.  Certainly we are seeing a rush of speculators in my community, and some are eager to get the LUCs removed so they can develop for greater profit.

The Province mandated ten-day minimum easily reduces to a meaningless number of business days notice whereby the public has any hope of hearing and acting in their own interests.  Yet both my City and Minister Fassbender’s office maintain that the status quo is good enough.

It is not good enough to have a government create laws that clearly advantage those who make the laws and those who have insider information, about changes to zoning,…. changes that alter the lay of the land.

Many elected officials and civil servants engage in the buying and selling of land, so there has to be a system that is iron-clad to ensure integrity and transparency in place to protect the public. As vast tracts of land come up for the discharge of Land Use Contracts all over British Columbia the time-frame for public notification shouts for more time, like thirty business days, minimum, not the current ridiculously short ten calendar days.

The current, paltry, and suspiciously inadequate, heads-up time for affected neighbourhoods to get notice about Public Hearings does not instil  any sense of honesty or transparency on the part of lawmakers.

While we’ve know a number of high profile governing officials who do a tidy business in land deals, I am not impugning any one at all.  It is legal for everyone to engage in the real estate market.   It is the inadequate notice time for Public Hearings that invites those in the know to take advantage of insider information, thus opening up the real possibility of conflict of interest.

Why would government deliberately set a time-frame that so clearly handicaps the public, while handing golden opportunities for insiders to snap up lands coming up for re-zoning? This can act as an invitation for government insiders to engage in lucrative business activities, whether directly or via friends and relatives, that violate conflict of interest standards.

I’ll attach a few articles below, that may help explain what an obvious flaw is embedded in the ten-day minimum notice, as seen in Abbotsford.

Aside from too few days of notice, our City made some serious errors. No prior consultation,… engaged in slander of those who questioned the process,  and I suggest that during the course of the [This should read Oct. 3rd Regular Council Meeting]Sept. 12 Public Hearing, City Manager, George Murray offered an answer on irregularities of signage that show him either  ignorant on the topic, or giving deliberate misdirection to staff, council and watching public.  I will back this if you wish details.

The tax-paying public of British Columbia should not have to face this sort of botched, mangled and even devious activity, as thousands of Land Use Contracts come up for discharge.

Government employees might be tempted to act on insider information while affected communities are not thought worthy of much more than a last-minute notice about significant land use changes.  If all worked perfectly, with the present process, a card mailed to people within 100 meters of a subject property, a sign erected once a Public Hearing is granted, a Hearing granted two weeks after 1st and 2nd Reading of the application, and 3 notices go into the local paper.  All of this happens under a fourteen day period.  Our City suggests that even requiring a sign is not a requirement of the Province.

So lots of time for insiders as land becomes more competitive and almost no time for a clearly disadvantaged public, whose well-being should be the highest priority of public servants.

I hope there is sufficient independence in your office to take this up with Premier Clark and the Cabinet.

Thank you,

Gerda Peachey,  Abbotsford