POLITICS

Report into housing market in military member's compensation case flawed: major

02/05/2015 02:09 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - A report that is central to a dispute between military members and the federal government over housing compensation is deeply flawed and should be tossed out, says a 25-year veteran who claims the ongoing feud is devastating his family.

The study examined the housing market in Bon Accord, Alta., to determine if it was depressed from 2007 to 2010, when Maj. Marcus Brauer bought his home and then sold it at a loss after being transferred to a base in Nova Scotia.

The assessment, done by an appraiser for the Treasury Board, found the community did not meet the definition of a depressed market, which involves a drop of more than 20 per cent.

The finding angered Brauer, who said it is just another delay in a lengthy legal battle with the Treasury Board over compensation dozens of Forces members say they are unfairly being denied.

"I was absolutely livid that they're going out and again for the second time trying to reverse engineer the decision to negatively affect members," Brauer said Thursday in an interview from Vilnius, Lithuania, where he is on duty.

"I wouldn't say it's valid at all."

The finding is a critical part of a fight that has dragged on for five years between Brauer and Ottawa over military members' forced relocations and compensation they can receive for losses on the sales of their homes.

Brauer, a 43-year-old father of five, said he lost $88,000 when he sold his home in Bon Accord after being posted to Halifax, but was granted only $15,000 in compensation after the Treasury Board decided in 2012 it was not a depressed market.

Brauer, who said housing prices dropped 23 per cent over three years, took the matter to Federal Court a year ago and a judge ordered the board to review its decision, which he called "unreasonable."

Brauer and his lawyer, Dan Wallace, said this latest report excluded certain home sale numbers, included the wrong geographic location and used subjective data.

"We frankly don't think this report is any good," Wallace said.

Wallace sent his response to the report to Tony Clement, the minister responsible for the Treasury Board, but has not yet received a response. A spokeswoman for the Treasury Board would only say the review is continuing.

Wallace is also handling a proposed class action on behalf of other Forces members who have suffered financial losses after selling their homes.

New Democrat MP Robert Chisholm, who represents the Halifax-area riding where Brauer lives, pushed Clement in the House of Commons to make a decision without success. He says the board should compensate Brauer, even if it sets a precedent for other members.

"Even if that opened the door to other families, it's a drop in the bucket," he said. "They feel like they're fighting a losing battle, financially and otherwise."

At least 146 military families have had a fraction of their losses covered. Military officials have argued for years that the policy should be changed. The chief of defence staff, the military grievance board and the Canadian Forces ombudsman have all said the Treasury Board position is unfair.

"My family's been destroyed," Brauer said. "I can't carry the army's debt anymore."

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