Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Turning over UBC Golf Course to Musqueam in treaty deal would be massive giveaway of public assets, green space

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday August 14, 2007

Musqueam deal a mass giveaway


The difference in golf and government is that in golf you can't improve your lie.

- former California governor George Deukmejian

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


Stephen Samuel said...

Well, your position on the Musqueam /UBC golf course deal seems to indicate that you are missing a critical piece somewhere.

The golf course deal isn't a giveaway to the Musqueam because the land has always been recognized as theirs. It is a part of their reserve lands which was improperly leased away from them by the federal government back when the Musqueam were being held in the dark, and the government was supposed to be caring for their lands in a fiduciary trust relationship.

Even back then, when the land was relatively worthless, that lease was for a song and a prayer.

That land, and it's lease has been the subject of a long drawn-out lawsuit, and the agreement to give it back to them, but with a 25 year promise that it will remain a golf course is the result of out-of-court negotiations over that lawsuit (which the Musqueam are winning).

To call the reversion of an improper lease a 'giveaway' indicates either a complete misunderstanding of either:
1) the basic facts,
2) the principles of business law, or
3) the principle of truth in reporting.

Feel free to pick your defense.


Oh, and the governments plan to give the land away to UBC (which is what the Musqueam lawsuit effectively stopped) would have been much worse, given your supposed complaints about this deal. UBC had, as far as I can tell, given no promise equivalent to the Musqueam's promise to not develop the golf course for at least 25 years. -- and if you think that the UBC Board of Governers wouldn't eagerly develop than land, then you've neither visited the campus in
the last decade, nor heard the vocal complaints of their neighbours, and even residents about what they've been doing to the land that they already have.

Anonymous said...

The Chief really had no option on that land it was agreed to remain till 2033 at it's present use.

Yes the Musquam leasing of assorted pieces of land was a mess.still is a mess. The homes built on the land had federal leases with rent changes about every 25 years. A golf course lease screw up ended up with the fed supposedly paying way back when Trudea was PM. No interest charges and it took years to finally get sorted. Who says the band for sure owns the land. Traditional territory maybe but possibly other bands have second dibbs on the space. The same band now and again claims ownership of other federal land in the west side of Vancouver. They have been in treaty talks for years, off and on. Until they can prove title it remains federal land set aside for Indians.

Our premier used to ague long and loud against any Indian title. went to court against the Nisga'a treaty. When he became premier he insisted on a referendum, That upset a lot of folks. Two bands over here got so annoyed, they claimed ownership of the land under the legislature. When Gordon had a new vision, he put 35 millions of our dollars into the two bands coffer's . With Tsawassen dollars changed hands as well. If he keeps dropping large sections of land and money it will soon affect the bottom line. I'm no golfer but I do figure public lands should be doled out very carefully . Lets get a treaty with the Musqueam and teh final bundle of rights will be well defined. Up till then, who knows for sure? DL

Anonymous said...

The anonymous poster who suggests that the land has "always been theirs" is duffering from severe delusions.

This is a giveaway, plain and simple. Gord's found religion in this issue and has completely gone off the deep end.

That land is no sooner Musqueam land than it is mine.

If didn't like Tieleman's coverage, fine, but he's right on the mark. He should attach my own column of some weeks ago to this piece as it illustrates, clearly, that public green space that is used by everyone is not necessarily fair game because the Premier says it is.

The interpretation of the land as Musqueam is well past the limits of narrow.

Additionally, the assumption that UBC would just pave it is so assinine, that it defies logic. They had already made clear the intention to keep ot a golf course permanently.

Not only does anonymous paint with a large brush, right off the bloody canvass, but proceeds to also tack the linguine logic of his/her comment to a supposition that is more suppository than anything else.

Well done Tieleman.

G West said...

I can't help but be on both sides of this one Alex. The visceral pleasure of seeing Gordon Campbell butting heads with Marty Zlotnik is hard to beat for Schadenfreude, isn’t it?

On the other hand, I think it's a bit of a stretch to see a golf course at UBC as the same sort of vital “public resource” as the ALR lands which are going to be paved over in Delta. So, pardon me if I don’t light my hair on fire over this one. I spent several years at UBC and the only time I ever got close to the golf course was when I ran by it four or five times a week.

Golf – as the list of guys and gals Marty and Bob have lined up to support their campaign – is a pretty elitist effort.

But that's just me.

There clearly is an enormous division within the various First Nations governments involved in treaty negotiations too - especially in urban areas.

Clearly the Musqueam aren't interested in a golf course and, given what's happened at the Pt Grey campus since Martha Piper took over (I assume it's still going on) I'd suggest that Marty should get an iron-clad guarantee about the links’ future use even if Gordo can convince the FN to take cash or other lands in place of the golf course.

Politics sure makes strange bedfellows, doesn't it?

On the other hand, whatever makes the Campbell government and its corporatist agenda look bad has to be good for the future of this province – one just hopes that my friend Marty Zlotnik won’t be back with his hand out for the BCLiberals come the run-up to the 2009 election.

Given Campbell’s reliance on corporate financing and “connections” perhaps the pocket book IS the only way to fight the guy.

Budd Campbell said...

"The B.C. Liberal government is planning on another massive giveaway of public assets, land probably worth far in excess of $1 billion."

Bill, is this the kind of money it would take to get the Musqueam to agree to leave the golf course on the table and take a monetary settlement instead? Who has produced this figure? Because if it is, that's getting way, way beyond the kind of funds that Ottawa and Victoria can possibly come up with in exchange for just one settlement.

If a similar amount applied in the case of the Delta ALR lands, that is, potential port lease fees that would amount to a billion dollars in present value, that may have motivated the decision to give them the land and the ALR exclusion.

Somehow, I not only doubt that's the case, I am sure it's quite the opposite. IOWs, I expect that once the port companies are through the real value of these lands to the Tsawwassen people will be in the range of several tens of millions total present value, certainly well below the $100 million mark, let alone $1 billion.

Chief Baird will be able to claim with a perfectly straight face that this is more than could be had from farming the land (assuming it continued to grow low value crops and had no investments in organic greenhouses, livestock breeding, etc.) That it will be a tiny fraction of the profits earned by the port companies is a figure she might have more trouble with, but there is no way the mainstream media or her followers in the TFN are ever going to confront her with those figures and demand an explanation.

Stephen Samuel said...

$1B is the estimated value of the Golf Course land if it was subdivided into housing lots at current land prices in the area. The Musqueam might be bought off for less in cash, or they may consider the land too valuable to give up. You'd have to talk to the Chief and the people to get a better idea.

In any case, even paying 10% of the market value of that land ( $100M ) just so the premier's neighbors can have a cheap game of golf seems a bit steep. There are better things to do with that kind of money.

In the meantime, the course is reserve land on a long-term lease until either
1) the lease is overturned in court (quite possible)
2) the lease expires (probably in 25 years), or
3) somebody comes up with a solution that works better than 1 or 2.

Anonymous said...

Stephen has everything wrong. The university
golf course was never reserve land, was never
identified by the Musqueam as land they'd like for a reserve, was never grabbed and was never leased. The land was never recognized as theirs any more than was UBC or YVR. Perhaps he should look up info on the Shaughnessy golf course surrender and lease. Might help him get some facts straight.

Stephen Samuel said...

The case of the Golf Course I was referring to was Geurin Vs The Queen. It notes that the golf course was Musqueam band land, and was leased to the course in 1955 for 75 years (expiring in 2030) on terms that the band had already said were unacceptable.

It turns out, however, that this is for the Shaughnessy Heights golf course which is south of the UEL. So I stand corrected.

It does, however, still stand that almost all of us in the Vancouver region (other than those now subject to the new Tsawassen treaty) live on land that is recognized, in law, as native land until, and unless, it is purchased from the natives who occupied it before the British showed up. The above mentioned case refers to that fact. The principle is the simple: they owned it when we came here, and you can't own land that you don't buy from it's legal owner. The treaty of 1763 between Britain, France and the Native Peoples recognizes (as opposed to having created) that ownership. That the treaty recognized that ownership (as opposed to having created native land ownership) is acknowledged as recently as the 1982 constitution (section 35).

In most of Canada, the rule of signing treaties with Natives was followed religiously, but in BC, and parts of northern Alberta, it was essentially ignored.

The result is that most of BC is technically native owned, and we've been tiptoeing around that fact for the last century or so.

An almost direct analogy to what we've been doing to natives over the last century or so can be found in somewhat recent news items about people who've had their homes mortgaged out from under them by shysters. The biggest difference here is that the bodies that would normally mediate the dispute (the BC and Canada governments) happen to be the accused shysters.

This situation leaves the Supreme Court of Canada with a serious condrum. If they're ever forced to directly resolve the issue of Native Land Ownership in BC, they'll have two choices:
1) ignore the law, or
2) effectively declare BC illegal.

Neither solution is really acceptable, and this is why the Supreme Court
of Canada has been contorting itself into knots to avoid dealing directly with the question of native land ownership, and begging the parties involved to negotiate a solution rather than litigate...

Anonymous said...

Stephen continues to have a problem with his facts. No court in Canada has ever declared that
the Indians own, or owned, the land. Courts have
affirmed aboriginal rights/native title, in keeping with the Constitution Act of 1982, but have always taken pains to point out that the Indian interest is subject to the underlying title of the Crown. Indian title relates to use of the land--hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering and settlement--and not to ownership. As such it is a severely limited interest. As for 1763, that was not a treaty, Stephen. You're likely referring to the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that placed limitations on the disposition or alientation of lands then occupied by Indians in eastern North America.