Provincial government officials failed to follow their own rules for allocating Crown land when they approved leases for a luxury yacht marina in Victoria's Inner Harbour, the B.C. Ombudsperson has concluded in a new report.
The Victoria International Marina aims to finish construction this spring, in time for a world championship sailing regatta at the end of May.
The 2008 announcement of the marina proposal encountered strong opposition from local residents, kayakers and others who feared the harbour would become overcrowded. The Ombudsperson's report focused on complaints about the handling of the water lease application by the B.C. ministry of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development.
Public interest not explained
"The Ministry did not provide enough information to the public about the decision that the government had to make, what factors it would and would not consider," Ombudsperson Jay Chalke told On the Island's Khalil Akhtar. "Furthermore it didn't meet its own policy, for transparency, to post decisions on its website until five years after the decision was made."
Even after government belatedly posted the marina decision, Chalke said, it did not give adequate reasons to show how the decision was in the public interest.
The Ombudsperson said while the ministry conducted public consultation on the water lease and took that input into consideration in its decision, the process was not "perfect."
Chalke said he recommended the ministry should complete a rigorous analysis before launching public consultation on how to get good information so that the public can understand why they're being consulted and what decision the ministry is making.
In the report, entitled From Stem to Stern: Crown Land Allocation and the Victoria International Marina, Chalke also found fault with the way the water lease was awarded for a 45-year term, rather than following the policy of a maximum 30-year term for marinas.
Chalke said the ministry chose a middle point between the policy and the marina developer's request for a 60-year lease.
"There should be proper guidance for ministry decision-makers of the criteria they should apply to determine the length of a lease," Chalke said.
The flaws the Ombudsperson found in the handling of the Victoria marina lease will make no difference to that project now as it nears completion.
However, Chalke said, the eight recommendations in his report have already been accepted by the B.C. government and his office will monitor this to ensure the changes are implemented.