The “Buy out Musqueam” non-starter

In “Buy out Musqeuam: Richmond First” (Richmond News, Oct. 29, 2008), Richmond First council candidates Bill McNulty and Kiichi Kumagai suggested offering a vast sum of money to the Musqueam Indian Band for what they think it owns in the Garden City Lands.

The Band holds an unregistered 50% beneficial interest in the lands, while Canada Lands Company holds the land title for the purposes set out in the basic Garden City Lands agreement, the MOU. That means that the Band will receive half the land-speculation profits if the development part of the Garden City Lands is (a) removed from the ALR, (b) rezoned from agricultural zoning to enable high-density construction, (c) divided into parcels, and (d) sold to developers.

If the lands remain agricultural, that four-step process will stall, and the land-speculation profits will no longer be on the table.

It’s quite possible that the Band will not even retain a beneficial interest in the aftermath of an end to the City’s purchase agreement. Since the City has apparently been unable to get Canada Lands Company to give it a copy of the joint venture agreement between Canada Lands and the Band, it’s not currently possible to be sure about what is going on in that regard.

No doubt, though, the Band will end up being compensated in some way, presumably by the Canada Lands Company or by the federal government.  The mess exists because the federal government tried to pay off the Band with money filtered through the sale of Richmond land, and it would be fitting for the federal government to help clean up the mess.

In the context of what I’ve explained, the McNulty-Kumagai “Buy out Musqueam” proposal is just a wild idea with no place in a business plan. It is discouraging to see something like that put forward at a time when Richmond desperately needs businesslike council members who will work through the Garden City Lands resolution process in a patient, systematic way.

Of the Richmond First candidates, Councillors McNulty and Derek Dang could yet perform adequately, but it would be a surprise. Ken Johnston is the only member of that slate who hasn’t been part of the problem. So far he also seems to be the only one with the business skills, environmental values, and commitment to saving the Garden City Lands to be a significant part of the solution.


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