Province fires board of B.C. Housing following critical report, makes replacements

·3 min read
A person walks past the B.C. Housing offices on Terminal Avenue in Vancouver on Saturday. (CBC - image credit)
A person walks past the B.C. Housing offices on Terminal Avenue in Vancouver on Saturday. (CBC - image credit)

The B.C. NDP government has fired the board of its housing agency after an independent probe of B.C. Housing uncovered some problems.

The provincial housing agency's budget is nearly $2 billion, an increase of more than 140 per cent from five years ago. And with a $7-billion boost in the budget for the next decade, the province tasked firm Ernst & Young to look into the agency.

Just a week after its report went public, B.C. Housing Minister David Eby announced its board of commissioner members are out.

The Ernst & Young probe — completed in May but released late last month — found problems in the agency, including inadequate oversight over decisions and spending, and unclear roles and responsibilities potentially impacting B.C. Housing's ability to manage risks.

A Friday news release from the province said Eby made the decision, and the new board would "ensure the implementation of best practices" at the agency. The statement directly referenced the Ernst & Young report.

"The review was initiated by the B.C. government in 2021," the statement read, "to ensure that B.C. Housing can deliver its expanded budget and mandate in consideration of government's historic $7-billion investment in affordable housing over 10 years and the rapid growth of the Crown corporation."

But B.C. Liberal housing critic Mike Bernier called the firings — announced late Friday — an attempt to "hide something."

"We've seen them blame everything from local governments to foreign investors," he said in a phone interview. "Now they're blaming the hand-picked board that they already had put in place."

He said the B.C. NDP failed to deliver on many of its housing promises. Asked whether the previous B.C. Liberal government bore any responsibility for the issues at B.C. Housing, Bernier said there were problems that needed to be addressed but "At the end of the day, the buck needs to stop with the government."

"Sometimes changes need to be made," he said. "But it also is unfortunate when we find the government will make grandiose announcements and promises — and look for blame with the agencies when it doesn't happen."

Eby could not be reached by time of publication. But his ministry says that, since 2017, it has funded almost 34,000 "affordable new homes" that are underway or constructed. And many more, it says, are expected under its $7-billion plan for the coming decade.

Board members replaced

The outgoing board members had all been appointed after the New Democrats came to power in 2017.

Included in the change — announced in the news release — is the replacement of NDP-appointed board chair Cassie Doyle.

She is replaced by Allan Seckel, former head of B.C.'s public service under the B.C. Liberal government in the 2000s and the province's former deputy attorney general.

"Doyle did not seek re-appointment of her four-year term, which ends July 18, 2022," the province said in a June 30 release.

Although Doyle's role was scheduled to end this month, seven of the former board members were appointed to serve until 2023, and two until 2024.

A provincial release said Doyle had overseen the Building B.C. housing program, as well as "extraordinary measures to house people" during the pandemic, wildfires and floods, and last summer's deadly heat dome.

Other board members removed were Barb Carle-Thiesson, Joanne Granek, Penny Gurstein, Kerry Pateman, Susan Russell-Csanyi, Sonia Sahota, and Perry Staniscia.

They're being replaced by Jill Kot, Sheila Taylor, Mark Sieben, and Russ Jones — plus two new appointees taking their seats in several weeks: former Snuneymuxw First Nation chief Doug White, and Clifford White, the former chief councillor of Gitxaata Nation.

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