Questioning government inaction on Delta water lot issue
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington called on the provincial government to fulfill its promise to offer long-term water lot leases for local residents and businesses along the Fraser in Question Period today.
“In 2015, the government promised to settle this issue, and they have yet to deliver,” Huntington said. “People need the certainty that comes with long-term leases for their personal, financial and business decisions. Instead, these individuals and businesses find themselves on month-to-month leases. The situation is untenable and it’s creating chaos on the river.”
When the government took over the administration of the leases from the Port of Vancouver, they promised leaseholders that settlements would be reached by the end of 2016 that would offer long-term leases to businesses and residents along the Fraser River.
“Without the long-term agreements in place, banks aren’t lending, developments are on hold, marinas can’t sign moorage leases and commercial docks aren’t being repaired. The government has put local residents and businesses in a terrible situation,” Huntington said.
“The ministry was supposed to have this resolved by now. Instead, the ministry is sending out yet another survey asking basic questions,” she added. “Excuse me, but this type of work should have been completed long ago.”
Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, responded by saying negotiations are ongoing and are expected to be resolved “very shortly.”
“I’m hopeful the situation will be resolved quickly,” said Huntington. “It’s been over two years, and it’s time for the government to step up and get it done.”
Question Period Transcript:
V. Huntington: When the province assumed administration of the Fraser River water lots from the Port of Vancouver, leaseholders were promised 20-year leases. What did they receive? Two-year leases. What do they have now? Thirty-day leases. Banks aren't lending, developments are on hold, marinas can't find leases, commercial docks aren't being repaired and floating homes are in limbo. Staff turnover in the ministry is so high that corporate memory has disappeared. Now we hear that yet another questionnaire is being sent out.
Does the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations appreciate the utter chaos being wrought upon the industrial and residential users along the Lower Fraser, and can he tell this House when leaseholders could expect their long-term leases?
Hon. S. Thomson: Our ministry has taken over responsibility for those leases from the port. This was the appropriate decision. It has been complicated because of the need to work through First Nations and accommodation issues with the Musqueam First Nation — important relationships to develop. We have provided two-year leases in order to provide the opportunity to work through those issues and, through those, work with the Musqueam. Unfortunately, that has taken longer than we had hoped. We have also extended existing leases on a month-to-month basis.
Currently we are communicating directly with all the leaseholders. We are nearing completion of all of the accommodation agreements that are required. Very shortly we will be able to provide all of those leaseholders with the long-term leases that they have been looking for in order to provide that certainty for them. Going forward, it's a priority issue for us, and we expect to have good news for all of those leaseholders very shortly.
V. Huntington: The information is welcome, and I know the leaseholders have appreciated meeting with you recently. That's the residential leaseholders. Since 2015, they have been living with rumours of First Nation consultations, and since 2015, the minister has told the leaseholders they would have a resolution by the end of 2016. And 2016 has come and gone. In 2017, we have not two-year leases but 30-day leases. This matter has to be settled — the sooner, the better.
I ask the minister how, after 2½ years of rumours and broken promises, he intends to convince the leaseholders along the river that he will deliver the long-term security they need so badly.
Hon. S. Thomson: I agree with the member opposite that the leaseholders do need that long-term security. That's why we have been working actively and intensively with the Musqueam First Nation to provide the appropriate accommodation in order to be able to provide the long-term tenures for those leaseholders. We understand what they need for certainty, for investment. As I said, it took a little longer than we had hoped, but as I said as well, we expect to be able to provide that certainty to them in the very near future.