Bond responds to WIDC questions
Land acquisition accusations involving the Wood Innovation and Design Centre dominated Question Period in B.C.’s legislature Wednesday, with the NDP calling for an independent review of the actions of Jobs, Tourism, and Innovation Minister Pat Bell.
Currently two local businessmen, Dan MacLaren and Brian Fehr, are crying foul after purchasing the land in question, saying a promise was made that one of Fehr’s companies would be shortlisted to construct the WIDC. Bell has denied any wrongdoing.
Neither of the businessmen have an interest in any of the three companies shortlisted for the project.
Foreclosure notice has been provided by Northern Initiatives Development Trust after a non-payment on an NDIT loan for the property by McLaren’s company, Commonwealth Campuses.
Bell answered the questions the NDP put forward until towards the end of the session, though members of the opposition consistently called for an answer from Justice Minister and Attorney General, Shirley Bond.
Bond said Bell answered most of the questions because the point of Question Period is the minister who is most relevant to the questions asked answers them.
“Let’s be clear – there are allegations but there is no evidence there was any wrongdoing by Pat,” Bond said in an interview Thursday.
She clarified why Bell challenged members of the opposition to make the same accusations outside of the House.
“In the House there is immunity. Minister Bell’s point was if you have evidence or accusations, you need to step outside of the House and make them.”
The accusations surrounded a letter from Janine North, CEO of Northern Initiatives Development Trust, stating municipal leaders and both local MLAs encouraged the WIDC’s development in downtown Prince George.
Bond pointed out that NDIT, like other similar organizations, have, through legislation, regional advisory councils, which mayors, regional district representatives and MLAs are allowed to be members of, who can provide advice on projects.
She added the WIDC was announced in the 2010 throne speech, which states it will be built in the heart of Prince George and said therefor you would expect leaders to support its development in downtown Prince George.
Bond pointed out no one from the NDP took the accusations made in Question Period outside of the House.
“You can imagine how difficult it is when your reputation is impugned,” she said. “I think it spoke volumes for Pat that they did not take those accusations outside of the house.”
The NDP had first called for Bond to investigate the matter, but have since called on an independent investigation, since Bond was mentioned in North’s briefing note.
“The document prepared by the CEO of the Northern Trust says that moneys were lent – public moneys were lent – to private individuals to assemble land at the request of the Minister of Jobs and the Attorney General,” said New Decmocrat House leader John Horgan in the legislature.
“Clearly, the Attorney General can’t investigate herself... Isn’t it past time that an independent body is appointed to investigate the scandal swirling around the Wood Innovation and Design Centre?”