by Tom Fletcher
The B.C. government released details of its pre-election property sales last week, showing it came out with more money overall than appraisals or B.C. Assessment Authority values forecast.
Opposition critics called for the disclosure after obtaining government memos that showed a rush to make the deadline for the 2013-14 fiscal year, where the B.C. Liberals campaigned on a balanced budget tabled before the 2013 election.
Development property south of the B.C. legislature beat its appraisal by $13 million, selling for $34 million to help the government meet a $350 million target to end the fiscal year.
A former hospital site in Surrey was sold for $20.5 million, $3 million less than its B.C. Assessment Authority value. Finance ministry records showed the sale price was midway between appraisals commissioned by the government and the buyer.
Finance Minister Mike De Jong said surplus Crown property is sold every year, with about 1,500 properties disposed of in the last 30 years. They will continue, but there won’t be another identified program in future budgets now that post-recession deficits have ended, he said.
NDP finance critic Carole James said there was an obvious rush to meet ministry targets for asset sales, and some could continue to be sold below market value without the public knowing.
Many of the surplus properties are school sites, and there are other transactions with municipalities.