Meet Ed Coleman, Quesnel city councillor and former school teacher.
Since 2014, he has worked as the CEO of the Barkerville Heritage Trust, which operates the Barkerville historic gold rush town, one of B.C.’s top, non-Vancouver tourist draws. BHT relies on millions of dollars of provincial subsidies in order to keep the 1862-established Barkerville from becoming a ghost town.
Coleman also has a famous brother, BC Liberal campaign co-chair and B.C.’s Deputy Premier, natural gas and housing minister Rich Coleman.
On March 19, with the 2017 election fast-approaching, the B.C. government announced it was extending BHT’s contract through 2025. It was scheduled to expire in 2020, the year before another election.
Ed Coleman’s name was omitted from the news release. British Columbians know how to use Google.
Some of them found a letter that Coleman wrote to the Langley Times in March 2013, before that year’s election, in which he called Rich “an excellent MLA” and “amazing brother.”
It is not known whether his last name helped open government doors or provincial purse strings, but Forests Minister Steve Thomson decided to continue to pay $2.4 million-a-year to BHT and not look for a better deal for B.C. taxpayers.
A Feb. 21 decision note for Thomson recommended the extension and said no other parties had expressed interest in managing the historic town site, though the government had not put anything to public tender. It listed two options: to extend to 2025 or seek proposals for tenure in 2019.
About the latter, the document said “it would open the door to new thinking about the use of the lands.”
Over the last 18 months, the BHT had been moving away from the curatorial approach of the last 15 years “toward a more entrepreneurial approach” for year-round activities. BHT also sought to amalgamate the Cottonwood House Historic Site.
“An extension would, however, be perceived by the trust and the region as a government commitment to continue operating assistance at the current level of $2.4M per annum until 2025.”
The $2.4 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year was a substantial increase from the $1.98 million paid the previous year. The additional five years mean at least $12 million more public funds for Barkerville. There do not appear to be any financial information documents on the Barkerville website and Ed Coleman did not respond immediately to a query from theBreaker.
A business case for 2015 to 2025 that was tabled last September at a Cariboo Regional District meeting said that BHT projected a balanced budget of almost $3.042 million for 2016-2017. In 2014-2015, the most recent completed year available, BHT fell one dollar short of balancing. It counted $2.16 million in provincial operating funds and only $604,383 in earned revenues. Prices for the two-day pass are $14.50 for adults, $13.50 for seniors, $9.50 for teens, $4.75 for children. A family pass is $35.
After May 9, at least one Coleman will continue to cash cheques from the provincial treasury. And maybe beyond the next election, too.