Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lib MLA: 'Why would you rent from somebody who didn’t support you?'

“If you contact every MLA in this province... find out if they don’t rent from supporters.” 
I’ve been surprised this story and interview with Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster hasn’t attracted more attention.
Especially his claim that MLAs routinely make a point of renting office space - with tax dollars - from people who contribute to their campaign.
Foster has been criticized by the auditor general for having taxpayers pick up the bills for a near-total renovation of the building he chose for his constituency office.
Especially as the building was bought just before the election by a family that contributed to his campaign. One of the co-owners was also hired by Foster as his constituency assistant.
It looks bad, especially as Foster rejected the less costly office occupied by his Liberal predecessor.
Taxpayers cover leasehold improvements for constituency offices - usually things like creating a meeting room or replacing worn-out flooring.
But Foster acknowledges that he chose a building that was bsically a shell. Taxpayers, the auditor general noted, paid for “purchasing and installing a complete forced air heating/cooling system including a four-ton heat pump and 75,000 BTU furnace, replacing the building's wiring system, installing vapour barriers in exterior walls and purchasing and installing a new double paned 18-foot by nine-foot storefront window and new plumbing including gas piping." 
That’s a great deal for the landlords. Their property is worth a lot more thanks to major renovations.
Not so good for taxpayers. 
Foster talked with Marshall Jones of Info-Tel news about the deal. The legislature comptroller approved it, he says.
Asked about the appearance of preferential treatment for a donor to his campaign, Foster was unrepentant.
“Why would you rent from somebody who didn’t support you?” he asked.
“If you contact every MLA in this province and ask them who they rent from, find out if they don’t rent from supporters,” he said.
Any business person is going to buy from someone who supports their business, he added.
Except, of course, the businesspeople are spending their own money.
Anon makes a good point in the comments.
If you want to spend more than $25,000 on goods or services in government, you are required to go through a competitive bidding process. It’s a away of getting the best deal and avoiding favoritism or corruption.
But MLAs don’t believe the rules that apply to everyone else in government should apply to them.
Which inevitably raises the question - why not?


Anonymous said...

The building was a restaurant prior to being gutted and converted to an office.

Foster's constituency assistant was also the previous BC Liberal MLA's constituency assistant for many years.

Why are MLA offices not done by open competitive bidding through BC Bid? Isn't there a law that buys of a certain size MUST be put out to open bid?

Bernard von Schulmann said...

Maybe it is time for MLA offices to be formal long term locations handled by the government civil service. I assume they would be able to get decent long term contracts for space.

There is no need to change locations of offices when the MLA changes. The office should endure.

David Bratzer of Victoria has done a bunch of digging on this.


Justus Havelaar said...

As usual, a BCLiberal MLA is absolutely tone-deaf on the issue of inappropriate partisanship: why wouldn't you rent from someone who supports you? Because the MLA represents the constituency, not his supporters. That shouldn't be news.
I note that our NDP MLA, on defeating her BCLiberal MLA opponent, took over his office. I've no idea who owns it, but I'm confident that wasn't a consideration. I also note that she and her staff are scrupulous about not doing party work in that office.

Beth said...

I always love to see you posting on local BC news, thanks for bringing this up again, why hasn't Mr. Foster stepped aside? he should have resigned long before this what a scam! it seems yet another Liberal has been given a free pass on how HE spends the tax payer dollars... only on supporters?? that is how this govt.has operated since 2001 how do they continue to get away with this stuff?

Anonymous said...

Foster is now saying that the provincial controller and the speaker OK'd the massive renovation and his hands are clean.