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IN OUR VIEW: BC Housing scandal an appalling mess

How much money could have gone to badly-needed projects?
Former BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay. (Caitlin Clow - Kelowna Capital News)

The audit of BC Housing and its relationship with Atira Women’s Resource Society has revealed a peculiar scandal.

There’s no evidence of personal enrichment. As far as Ernst & Young accountants can tell, no one was skimming funds.

What happened was a case of blatant favouritism in a provincial agency with a $2 billion annual budget.

Former BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay, who resigned in 2022, is married to Atira CEO Janice Abbott.

Over the most recent fiscal year reviewed, Atira received $90 million, a full $35 million more than any other non-profit funded by BC Housing. Rules were ignored, and on at least 27 occasions, Ramsay involved himself in decisions regarding Atira through BC Housing employees.

There are, and should be, questions about whether Atira was spending that money well.

But even if every dollar was well spent – and safeguards around that seem to have been ignored as well – it would still be a case of blatant favouritism.

The entire province is facing a housing crisis. BC Housing was the lead agency tasked with protecting and creating housing for the most vulnerable individuals in our society.

The fact that a good chunk of its budget was siphoned off to a group run by the CEO’s wife, without oversight, means that other groups, which also wanted funding for desperately needed projects, were sent packing without a cheque.

The audit is a good first step. Getting rid of the BC Housing board, a decision Premier David Eby made last year, was also necessary. But a deeper investigation is still required. Were laws broken?

More important, this can’t happen again – not at BC Housing, not at any provincial agency. Stronger conflict of interest controls, and rewards for whistleblowers, might help prevent another incident.

– Black Press

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