Unfortunate staff report – response 1

Previous posts in this blog (available below) mention the unsavoury events leading up to Nov. 17, 2008, when Richmond councillors including Cynthia Chen and Derek Dang thwarted an attempt to slip through a resolution giving new life to the City of Richmond’s almost-terminated Garden City Lands purchase agreement. The attempt was not stamped out, but it was postponed until the new council takes office so that the right people will make the decision and all council members will have time to review the complex issue. The following is roughly what I would have said if the turn of events had not eliminated the opportunity for delegations from the public to speak. 

Notes: (1) For an in-depth understanding of the speaking notes, you will need to refer to this unfortunate staff report, this basic agreement known as “the MOU,” and the purchase agreement; however, you can get the gist of things without them. (2) This post is called “Unfortunate staff report – response 1” because there will be further posts responding to the unfortunate report.

I wish to speak in favour of the key principle expressed in the staff report on the Garden City Lands.

On page 2, the report states that the City should cooperate “to honour the spirit and intent of the MOU.”  Furthermore, the City, Canada Lands Company CLC, and the Musqueam Indian Band are putting that principle into practice.

Let’s go back a bit as a quick review. That came about because the Agricultural Land Commission told City staff that the application has “very little chance of approval.” Major revisions to give it a chance were not politically feasible until now.  So, since the Commission panel won’t meet again in 2008, the ALR Release Condition deadline cannot be met. As a result, the Richmond-CLC/Musqueam Purchase Agreement will be null and void after December 31, 2008.

However, the MOU should continue to apply. It was therefore appropriate for parties to the MOU to renegotiate within the spirit and intent of the MOU. And they are applying the relevant sections of the MOU.

The most relevant section is section 1(22). It is a contingency provision that lists three conditions that the City will not be able to meet after the purchase agreement dies. The section says that “Musqueam, CLC and the City will meet to discuss the renegotiation of any understandings, arrangements, or agreements between them with respect to the Garden City Property in order to give effect to the spirit of this MOU, to the extent possible, in the changed circumstances.”

The parties have begun implementing that section of the MOU. I commend the City, along with CLC and the Musqueam, for doing the right thing to that extent. (And establishing a key precedent.)

If need be, the step after renegotiation is to go to arbitration with Bob Plecas. The last resort is for the four Parties to cooperate in making whatever arrangements are necessary to restore each of them to the position it was in prior to entering into the MOU. (And I remind you that the federal government was in the position of direct ownership of the Lands.) I support all of that process that the City, Musqueam, and CLC have set in motion.

I want to be clear here that my support is for the key principle and basic process, and I hope that council will vote against the staff recommendation.

I know from a legal opinion to the Garden City Lands Coalition that the agreements do not fetter the council members’ legislative discretion in their votes on the application. The City has acted with immense goodwill towards its partners, and the City will still be acting in good faith if council uses its legislative discretion to reject the staff recommendation.

More renegotiation will be needed. This time, I hope that City council will determine the City’s position. I propose that the City make an offer to CLC to acquire the Lands under the rights of first offer and refusal on pages 4 to 7 of Schedule C of the purchase agreement, which is still valid until the end of December.  No doubt, CLC will act according to its mandate and reciprocate the City’s immense goodwill — and accept (in consultation with the Musqueam).

The appropriate amount is obvious. It is the fair market value. Under the MOU, the interest of the federal Crown is “to obtain fair market value for the Garden City Property.” That fair market value is stated as 9.54 million dollars.

CLC will simultaneously be meeting both the financial and community value parts of its mandate. No doubt CLC will ensure that the Musqueam are treated fairly too.

It will be a fair result in good faith and goodwill for all parties to the MOU: the federal government, CLC, the Musqueam, and the City of Richmond.

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