Conflict of Interest & Oak Bay's APC (Advisory Planning Commission)

At the July 3rd, 2018 meeting of the APC, commission member Virginia Holden, who was also employed by the Housing Policy Branch of the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, gave a presentation promoting the development of affordable housing in Oak Bay. Community members in attendance described her presentation as a blatant sales pitch for the proposal by the Oak Bay United Church Development Team (OBUC-DT).

The OBUC-DT’s application to the District of Oak Bay was filed a few weeks after this meeting.

When brought to the attention of Mayor and Council at that time this conflict was considered to be likely non-actionable as Ms. Holden was not receiving any direct financial benefit.

However, on November 4th, 2018 APC member Ms. Holden approached BC Housing expressing an interest to work with them on this development project, in a paid contract position.

(see FOI excerpts below)

On November 8th, Ms. Holden wrote again to BC Housing with a presentation/plan from her private company to work on the Oak Bay United Church project, which is currently being evaluated by the District’s Planning Department and will eventually be given to Council for a decision.

NOTE: The Advisory Planning Commission’s role is to  “… advise Council on matters respecting land use, community planning, or proposed bylaws and certain permits under Part 26 of the Local Government Act. And Official Community Plan amendment applications, rezoning applications and land use contract amendments to ensure proposed developments comply with the policies and objectives of the Official Community Plan.”

When an APC member meets with and lobbies other members of the commission while at the same time attempting to negotiate a pecuniary arrangement with the funder/developer isn’t she splitting her loyalty between two interests: one that potentially offers a financial interest and one that doesn’t.

How could this not create a conflict ?

Conclusion: When this development proposal comes before Council in due course, any advice from the Advisory Planning Commission must be considered tainted. It should be excluded from the decision-making process.

Update:

The CCN wrote to Mayor and Council on April 1, 2019 about these concerns but so far the only response has been a perfunctory acknowledgement.

On April 17th, 2019 The Concerned Citizens Network of Oak Bay approached Mr. Malcolm McNaughton of BC Housing regarding these communications between him and the APC member with a copy of the emails between them (from our FOI request).

His response: “I can confirm that BC Housing does not have a contract with Ms. Holden.”

He does not say that her company doesn’t have a contract, nor does he address her past or future relationship with BC Housing.

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From: BC Housing FOI Request #30-13218

On 4 November 2018 Ms. (Ginnie) Holden wrote to Malcolm McNaughton and Armin Amrolia of BC Housing:

“Thanks for taking the time to meet with me on Friday. It was great to see you both and appreciate your willingness and flexibility for me to work with your team. Overall, I am interested to start something with BC Housing in the new year in some shape or form.  In terms of Oak Bay United, [redacted] I just want to understand what the possibilities are. I’m meeting the [redacted] on Tuesday so I will reconnect with Malcolm after that discussion. I walked through the neighbourhood around the OB church yesterday to get a better sense of the neighbours` concerns more clearly.”

On 8 November 2018, Ms. Holden wrote:

“I met with the Chair of the Oak Bay planning commission as well as the other members on Tuesday [redacted] I would just need to step out of deliberations any time that the project is discussed or reviewed. This is common practice whenever there is a perceived conflict of interest to the project under discussion. Given this decision, I would be interested working with BC Housing.”