BRITISH COLUMBIA

Finance Minister says asset sales good value despite Coquitlam, B.C., land deal

04/23/2015 07:36 EDT | Updated 07/21/2015 09:59 EDT
VICTORIA - Finance Minister Mike de Jong has released an accounting of two years of government surplus property sales to counter Opposition claims that Crown assets are being purged at fire sale prices to balance budgets.

The sale of 14 properties in the Burke Mountain area of Coquitlam at $43 million below appraised value to a Liberal party donor sparked an uproar in the legislature for days.

New Democrat justice critic Mike Farnworth said the Liberal government was "hosed" in the deal, especially when one piece of the 14 properties sold for $100,000 despite an appraisal of $5.6 million.

New Democrat Leader John Horgan accused the government last week of selling the land after less that three months on the market to include the added $85 million in the government's 2014 budget.

But de Jong said Thursday that British Columbians received good value overall for the dozens of surplus sales since 2013.

"The desire to move ahead with the release of these assets at no point trumped the need or commitment to follow through on a responsible marketing of those properties," he said.

"I think a reasonable person examining the data will come to the conclusion that the people did receive fair market value over and over and over again."

He defended the Burke Mountain sale as good value and said among the several offers received, "the best one was accepted."

He said the lot that sold for $100,000 was "over-valued," because it had two streams running through it and terrain so steep it was impossible to build, but the buyer included it in the purchase of the 14 parcels on land.

NDP finance critic Carole James said de Jong should have made the documents public earlier. She said she counted more than two dozen properties sold at below their appraised value.

"I heard the minister say we're OK, on average it came out in the wash," she said. "That's no kind of excuse for being able to sell properties under appraised value."