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HomeBusinessAdvocates unsuccessful in urging NDP government to halt Capilano University’s Quest land deal

Advocates unsuccessful in urging NDP government to halt Capilano University’s Quest land deal

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Bob Mackin

Desperate, 11th hour pleas to the NDP government from a Quest University graduate and a researcher failed to delay the province’s acquisition of the Squamish campus.

Selina Robinson, the Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, and Paul Dangerfield, the president of Capilano University, announced the $63.2 million purchase from Primacorp Ventures on Wednesday. Capilano University plans next year to reopen the former private university, which suspended operations in April.

“They obviously, totally ignored everything and went ahead,” researcher Vivian Krause said after the announcement. “Why did they go ahead, why couldn’t they have postponed the press conference? That’s what they should’ve done.”

Jake Henderson, a member of the class of 2014, unsuccessfully appealed to Robinson and Premier David Eby in an open letter, urging them to reconsider the decision. He said it is “ill-considered,” because the campus was designed for Quest’s unique, student-led research curriculum. 

Henderson said Quest owes property owner Primacorp $20 million and that Peter Chung, Primacorp’s chairman, notionally agreed to forgive the debit if Quest did not oppose the land sale. But, “bad actors prejudiced the financial interests of the institution to enrich themselves” and Henderson said he is concerned that 2016-deceased founder Dr. David Strangway’s vision “will die because of greed and government apathy.” 

Henderson, founder of the Save Quest campaign, was a member of Quest’s third graduating class, worked as facilities manager from 2014 to 2019 and lived on campus. He left to study law at the University of Victoria and now practices criminal law in Vancouver. Quest “made a below average high school student into a lawyer,” he wrote.

Henderson suggested the provincial government should have leased land back to Quest at a reasonable rate, with payments directed to Capilano University, while offering the Quest curriculum through Capilano.

Quest University Canada in Squamish, B.C. (Quest)

“I have concerns that the provincial government has not had sufficient time to consider whether these previously allocated funds will cover the actual costs of Capilano University’s prospective transition,” he wrote. “I have concerns that the public has not had an opportunity to provide comment on this intended use of public funds.”

Meanwhile, Krause wrote to Eby, calling the deal a “grave mistake” and urging him to “hit pause,” because she had complained to the RCMP, which is considering an investigation.

In her letter, Krause said multiple audits by the Canada Revenue Agency “reveal gross malfeasance involving tens of millions of dollars” after pieces of the original 240-acre property were carved up and transferred to charitable foundations set-up by Vancouver charity law specialist Blake Bromley. One of the land owners, the Eden Glen Foundation, lost its CRA charitable status earlier this summer over a nearly $5 million gift to a numbered company when it sold one of Quest’s original land parcels in 2018.

“If the tax-receipted donations and the land that was Quest’s birthright had actually been received by the university, I believe that it would not have ended up in creditor protection and been sold under [the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act],” Krause said.

“No government should purchase ill-gotten goods, least of all a government that has promised to tackle corruption.”

Robinson said Primacorp was invited to the announcement, but no representative attended. She did not indicate whether anyone from the Quest board had been invited. 

Robinson was asked why the government gave Capilano University $48 million toward the purchase, despite the concerns.

“Government always does due diligence in any any purchase, and so due diligence was, in fact done,” Robinson said. “So we’ve worked together with Capilano University, the challenges that Quest has had over over several years, you’ll have to ask Quest, these were their dealings. They were a private institution.”

The 55-acre campus, its buildings and surrounding lands, were valued at almost $89 million, and listed for sale by NAI Commercial earlier this year. 

Primacorp paid $43 million for the land and university buildings to rescue Quest out of court protection from creditors in December 2020. Quest’s biggest lender, the Vanchorverve Foundation, demanded repayment of $23.4 million at the start of 2020. 

Chung is a constituent of Eby, who reportedly paid $42 million in July 2021 for the Northwest Point Grey mansion formerly owned by philanthropists Joe and Rosalie Segal.

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