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HomeBusinessJanice Abbott quits Atira and CMHC

Janice Abbott quits Atira and CMHC

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Bob Mackin

A week after the release of a scathing provincial government report on conflict of interest at BC Housing, the CEO of its biggest housing provider bowed to pressure and quit.

Atira CEO Janice Abbott with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (second from left) (Nomodic/CMHC)

In a statement emailed at 11:29 a.m. May 15, Atira Women’s Resource Society said that Janice Abbott had resigned immediately. The organization will be led by executive directors of operations, human resources and finance until an interim CEO is named. 

“The board thanks Janice for helping thousands of women and children over her 31 years of leadership at Atira,” said chair Elva Kim in a prepared statement. “The focus for the board now is working collaboratively with the B.C. government and BC Housing, and restoring the public’s confidence in Atira’s integrity, vision, mission, purpose and values.”

Also on May 15, Abbott voluntarily resigned from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) board of directors. Chair Derek Ballantyne’s statement said Abbott cited “personal reasons.” 

“I would like to thank Ms. Abbott for her service as a CMHC board member,” said Ballantyne’s statement. 

On Thursday, the Atira board returned $1.9 million surplus funds to BC Housing and established a task force to hire a third-party reviewer. 

“The board and staff at Atira are deeply committed to serving and protecting women and children and providing much-needed housing. We are confident that this path forward will allow us to focus on the essential work with fewer distractions,” said Kim.

The Atira announcement came about a half-hour before Premier David Eby’s scheduled photo op at the Lafarge cement plant in Richmond. Eby and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon had publicly called last week for Abbott to resign in the wake of the Ernst and Young report that found her husband, Shayne Ramsay, subverted conflict of interest rules while he was CEO, in order to award contracts and funding to Atira. 

Ramsay (BC Housing)

“Leadership renewal at Atira will help it move forward in partnership with BC Housing and our government so that appropriate policies and procedures are in place,” Tweeted Kahlon. “We welcome the appointment of a government rep to Atira’s board and look forward to working with them to ensure concerns are addressed.”

That report said that since 2019, Atira’s funding outpaced other agencies, culminating in 2022 when it received $35 million more than the next-highest provider. 

The report also said that Ramsay modified meeting minutes and routinely deleted text messages, despite explicit instructions from the Office of the Comptroller General to preserve records.  

The Squamish Nation-owned Nch’kay Development said Friday that Ramsay was no longer the executive vice-president. He had joined the company, behind the Senakw towers development near the Burrard Bridge, after announcing his retirement from BC Housing. 

Abbott was in her second three-year term as a director of CMHC, which is loaning $1.4 billion to Senakw. 

A statement from the Office of the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion said the CMHC board is not involved in awarding national housing strategy funding, but it was reviewing Atira nonetheless. 

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