A Township of Langley councillor hoping to become mayor in the Oct. 15 election says his star opponent is illegally hiding his assets from voters.
Eric Woodward said Rich Coleman, the former BC Liberal leader and ex-deputy premier, is breaking the law by claiming on his statutory disclosure form that his investments are in a blind trust.
Municipal politicians, Woodward said, have significant power to “create wealth with the stroke of a pen with rezoning decisions.”
“You cannot just say ‘blind trust,’ because you cannot sit at the council table and not have the public aware if you have a pecuniary interest in something at the table,” Woodward said in an interview.
Coleman, who leads the fledgling Elevate Langley party, has not responded for comment.
Section 3(a) of the Financial Disclosure Act requires that a nominee or elected official must specify “the name of each corporation in which the person or a trustee for the person holds one or more shares.” Under section 5(1), a nominee must also disclose holding more than 30% of voting shares in a corporation, including shares that are held “by a trustee for him or her.”
“It’s completely outrageous that somebody would run for mayor of a municipality with the growth rates we’re seeing and not disclose if they have interests in land within that municipality,” said Woodward, who was elected to township council in 2018.
On his form, Coleman disclosed a residential address in Langley’s Routley neighbourhood and initially listed Aldergrove Credit Union as a creditor, but crossed that out. His sources of income are a B.C. Government pension and Canada Pension Plan. According to the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, Coleman’s 24 years representing Langley and Aldergrove in Victoria made him eligible for a $109,000-a-year pension.
During his provincial career, Coleman fell under the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act, which requires annual filings and material change updates to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. Rather than publishing those forms, the commissioner releases a one or two-page summary about each MLA.
Coleman’s last summary, released in November 2020, said his spouse received salary from Mobil 1 Lube Express, they had residential property, bank and other deposits, and investments held inside a Sun Life Financial RRSP “money on deposit and/or term deposits certificates.” Under the heading of “financial interests (member and spouse),” the summary said: “Member has a blind trust.”
Not reflected in Coleman’s publicly available municipal or provincial disclosure documents is that his son Adam’s company, Coleman Oil and Lube Properties Ltd. operates the Mobil 1 Lube Express in Langley. The B.C. corporate registry shows that Adam Coleman’s company amalgamated in February 2018 with 976440 B.C. Ltd., a numbered company registered to Kuldip and Bahadur Cheema of Vancouver.
Bahadur Cheema is better known as Bob Cheema, the supporter of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition who was behind the scuttled 2013 South Surrey casino proposal. Then-Mayor Dianne Watts cast the tiebreaking vote against the Gateway Casino/B.C. Lottery Corporation project, after then-gambling minister Rich Coleman called two city councillors during the public hearing period in a bid to influence their votes.
Coleman announced his bid to replace the retiring Mayor Jack Froese in late August, more than two months after the final report of the Cullen Commission on money laundering in B.C. did not find political corruption. Commissioner Austin Cullen instead concluded that BC Liberal politicians did not fulfil their duty to protect casinos from dirty money.
Councillors Michelle Sparrow and Blair Whitmarsh are the other candidates.
Woodward said Elections B.C. referred his complaint to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, which was indifferent and suggested he complain after Oct. 15 to Elections B.C.
“I’ve been filing those disclosures every year, and I’m very familiar with the rules,” Woodward said. “I actually am personally offended that somebody would run for mayor and not.”
On his candidate disclosure, Woodward lists the Township of Langley as his only source of income and has liabilities with a branch of CIBC in downtown Vancouver. Attached to his disclosure are three additional pages with details of a mixed-use portfolio of 20 properties wholly owned by Fort Langley Properties Ltd. (FLPL), of which Woodward is a shareholder. He reported no holdings in his name, other than his personal residence in Langley’s Salmon River area.
Woodward also shows that FLPL owes mortgage debt to Baywest Developments (2020) Ltd., First West Credit Union and Triple A Drywall Ltd., and operating debt to Statewood Properties Ltd.
Woodward said that FLPL is a holding company that is bound to donate all ongoing rental and future development revenue from the Fort Langley Project to Greater Langley charities.