“Let’s Fix Housing” is the slogan for Vancouver city councillor Hector Bremner, whose bid to be the Non-Partisan Association mayoral nominee was rejected May 7 by the party board.
But, six years ago, Bremner and his wife Virginia Grespan were in a housing fix of their own.
On May 1, 2012, B.C. Supreme Court Master Ian Caldwell issued a foreclosure notice against the couple for $523,406.85 owing to CIBC Mortgages Inc. They had defaulted in February 2012 on $2,700 a month loan payments for their four-bedroom house in New Westminster’s West End.
Bremner did not respond to interview requests from theBreaker.
The court file includes a March 16, 2012 letter to CIBC and its Kamloops law firm, Fulton and Co., signed by the couple. Bremner and Grespan pleaded for more time while they tried to sell the house, cut costs and generate more income.
Their letter blamed their misfortune on a “sudden and severe drop in income from a personally owned business of Hector Bremner and the related expanse of maintaining the company.” Bremner operated a consultancy at the time called Touch Marketing.
The house was listed for sale before Christmas 2011 at $649,900, but reduced in the first week of March 2012 to $599,900, according to an accompanying letter from their real estate agent. Bremner and Grespan’s letter said they accepted a $599,000 offer and Bremner was on the cusp of a new, higher-paying job with a company that was not named.
“As of the date of this letter, Mr. Bremner has been notified to expect to receive a final draft employment contract, whose terms have been already negotiated and agreed upon, as a sales and marketing manager by an employer no later than [March 27].”
The letter said Bremner’s new job was to pay $5,000 monthly plus commission. “Monthly income is expected to range from $7,000 to $10,000.”
“There has been a lot of frustration, dashed hopes and disappointment over the last three months which as been extraordinarily difficult,” they wrote. “When something appeared to finalize with respect to employment or the sale of the property, there was another delay and then another.”
It is not known whether that job ever materialized in 2012. Bremner’s online resume shows that he operated Touch Marketing from 2007 until 2013, when he ran unsuccessfully for the BC Liberals in the NDP stronghold of New Westminster.
After the BC Liberal government was re-elected, Grespan, who had been a nurse, became a receptionist in Premier Christy Clark’s office and Bremner worked as an aide for International Trade minister Teresa Wat. He later became Natural Gas and Housing minister Rich Coleman’s aide. In 2014-2015, their first full fiscal year of government employment, Bremner was paid $46,077 and Grespan $46,793. Grespan received $36,164 in severance when the NDP replaced the BC Liberals last July.
Since February 2015, Bremner has worked as a vice-president with the BC Liberal-aligned Pace Group lobbying and public relations firm.
Bremner was elected under the NPA banner in last October’s by-election after Vision Vancouver’s Geoff Meggs quit to become Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff. Bremner rode low turnout and left-wing vote-splitting to victory.
NPA president Gregory Baker told theBreaker on May 10 that the party was aware of the foreclosure case, but he did not say whether it was a factor in the board’s decision to reject Bremner. The NPA’s 51-page candidate application, obtained by theBreaker, included probing questions about past legal and financial problems, such as “have you ever had a judgment made against you in any legal proceeding?”
Bremner’s January-filed statutory disclosure form to city hall lists liabilities of undisclosed amounts with Royal Bank of Canada and Capital One MasterCard, but no assets or real property.
Bremner is under investigation for two complaints under the city hall code of conduct alleging conflict of interest stemming from his job with the Pace Group. The company’s clients include major developers like Aquilini Investment Group and Concert Properties.
Contrary to what Bremner and his campaign manager, Mark Marissen, have said publicly since the May 7 board rejection, Baker said Bremner was not approved by the so-called “green light committee.” The committee did, however, express serious reservations to the board about Bremner’s application and interview.
“[The green light committee] was an advisory board, it reviewed the applications and looked at the criminal record check and all of these details,” Baker said. “The board’s job was to make the decision. It was never the green light committee’s job to make the decision.”
Engineer George Steeves was the other prospective candidate rejected. Accountability activist Glen Chernen, former Park Board chair John Coupar and franchising entrepreneur Ken Sim were approved to run for the May 29 party vote. The election is Oct. 20. Sam Sullivan was the last NPA mayor, from 2005 to 2008. Vision Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson will not run for a fourth term.
Baker said NPA candidate applications are treated as confidential, between the candidate and the board. He said the party is consulting a lawyer about making the reasons for Bremner’s rejection public.
Baker called Bremner’s allegations in a Vancouver Sun story of racism playing a part in the NPA board decision “completely untrue” and “offensive.”
Asked if Bremner could be kicked-out of the NPA’s city council caucus for his conduct since the board decision, Baker said: “We’re considering all our options right now.”
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