Governments love to use superlatives, hoping they can pull a fast one on the public. It gets worse when an election is rapidly approaching.
Take British Columbia’s Liberal government, for instance.
On Sept. 19, 2016, it trumpeted this:
“The Government of B.C. is committing $500 million to ensure more British Columbian families have access to affordable rental housing, the largest housing investment in a single year by any province in Canada.”
theBreaker wondered. How does the BC Liberal government define “affordable”? Whose record did British Columbia break for single-year housing investments?
Deputy Premier Rich Coleman’s Natural Gas Development and Housing Ministry failed to answer that question when theBreaker asked under Freedom of Information. But it did include an email by Coleman spokeswoman Christine Ash to four other public-paid political staffers on Sept. 15, 2016, offering a clue of where to go next.
“Confirmed by Shane Ramsey (sic) at BC Housing, and we can say this: This is the largest housing investment in a single year by any Province in Canada.”
So theBreaker went straight to the horse’s mouth: Ramsay’s FOI office.
On Feb. 1, theBreaker got a reply from Ramsay himself. (He signs all FOI disclosures from BC Housing).
“With regard to your request for “correspondence and reports evaluating and approving… the definition of the word affordable, please find attached a copy of the Investment in Housing Innovation Program Framework. We do not have further records evaluating and approving the definition of affordable for the purpose of this program.”
The closest this eight-page document gets to defining “affordable” is a footnote that says:
“The CMHC market average rent based on the CMHC, Rental Market Report — BC Highlights (Fall (Row/Townhouse and Apartment), or as determined by BC Housing from time to time.”
The CMHC report showed the Vancouver one-bedroom average in 2016 was $1,120 (forecast to be $1,180 by 2018). On the other end of the scale, Prince George had the lowest one-bedroom average of $667 (forecast to be $710 by 2018).
Then Ramsay continued:
“With regard to your request for the ‘research and methodology relied upon to make the claim that the $500 million pledge housing investment in a single year by any province in Canada,” BC Housing has no records.”
So Coleman and Premier Christy Clark have been trumpeting an alleged record without any facts to back it up from the Crown corporation head their public-paid spinners relied on to supply the facts.
(This is the same government that got caught with its pants down in December for falsely claiming $20 billion had been invested in British Columbia’s liquefied natural gas industry. It was forced to pull an ad after a citizen’s complaint to Advertising Standards Canada.)
BC Housing is also running the Liberals’ controversial second mortgage scheme for first-time home buyers. Ramsay wrote in a separate letter that he doesn’t have the business case or cost-benefit analysis for the $700 million-plus election year program.