Tuesday August 14, 2007
Musqueam deal a mass giveaway
By BILL TIELEMAN
The difference in golf and government is that in golf you can't improve your lie.
The B.C. Liberal government is planning on another massive giveaway of public assets, land probably worth far in excess of $1 billion.
It will be transformed from pleasant green space into highrise condominiums, townhouses, a shopping centre - maybe even a casino.
Private property developers are already drooling at the profits they stand to make if this 120 acres (48.5 hectares) of prime Vancouver land is opened up for construction.
How could Premier Gordon Campbell get away with such an outrageous deal? By turning the University of B.C. golf course over to the Musqueam Band as part of an aboriginal treaty settlement.
We've seen this movie before. The recent treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation exempts 511 acres (207 hectares) of prime farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Then the Tsawwassen will sign it over for expansion of the Deltaport container terminal, a key goal of corporations using the port who knew the land would otherwise remain farmland forever.
But the UBC golf course deal may be even more controversial. Longtime Campbell ally and fundraiser Marty Zlotnik, also a Vancouver Park Board commissioner, is actually leading the campaign to stop the golf course giveaway.
Public opposition is so strong that Musqueam Chief Ernie Campbell was forced to say the land would stay as a golf course "until 2033".
But the reality is that there's no way anyone but developers and bulldozers will be on the course right after that.
The Musqueam have longstanding and legitimate land claims, a story I first started covering as a university student reporter 30 years ago. They deserve a fairly negotiated settlement that compensates band members for loss of land and builds economic opportunities.
But turning over 120 acres of publicly owned, green recreational space for what would certainly become housing for the wealthy isn't a good solution for anyone.
The Musqueam people won't be living there, nor will the lion's share of the benefits of development go to them. And they would still have to wait 26 years before selling the course.
Former Musqueam chief Gail Sparrow has criticized the secretive nature of the pending deal and suggested looking for alternative land that could be developed immediately for Musqueam housing and other income. Zlotnik agrees.
One doesn't have to be a golfer to see that the loss of green space to real estate development would be extremely unfortunate.
And another treaty that causes significant community antagonism could lead to major opposition to the tenuous treaty process itself.
Campbell, whose Point Grey riding includes the UBC course, needs to find a much better solution. For more info: www.savethecourse.ca and www.musqueam.bc.ca