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Exclusive: Coleman reveals housing, LNG and campaign secrets to party faithful

Campaign co-chair says BC Liberals are fully funded for May 2017 election
Rich Coleman: “I believe we’ll have more seats after this election than we have today." | BIV Files

The day after he announced a $500 million plan to build more housing, the minister responsible gave a BC Liberal fundraiser in Vancouver a sneak peek into a scheme he plans to announce closer to the provincial election.

Rich Coleman outlined a model that he said worked for him in the 1990s, when he was in the development business, working on a seniors housing project.

“I’ll give you one example,” Coleman said, according to the September 20 recording leaked to BIV. “For instance, let’s say somewhere in Langley there was a piece of property owned by government and it was going to cost us about $50,000 or $100,000 a door to build condos and we had the land for free, which is another $50,000 to $100,000 a unit, and then development cost charges are forgiven by the municipalities, and we can drive down the cost, to let’s say 25% of value. So people could qualify, based on income, to buy that unit at 75% of what the market price would be, and they would only pay back their 25% when they resold.

“It would just keep paying back, the 25% of the upside would keep coming back to government to pay for the long-term investment we’ve made in that particular product, which allows people to ladder-up to the market and it allows people to get into the market as well.”

Coleman said his plan is “very large” and more ambitious than a one-off.

“We’re looking at more of a programmatic thing. We need to know where we can go, how many units, what type of location, what the numbers have to do to make it work. All of that stuff is getting done now and we will, sometime as we go through to the new year, announce that, plus another really exciting one that I’m not going to mention today.”

Coleman, who is also the Minister of Natural Gas Development, said he expects a final investment decision on one of three major liquefied natural gas export proposals before the May 9, 2017 provincial election.

The federal government’s environmental review decision on Pacific NorthWest LNG near Prince Rupert is expected by October 2, but Coleman indicated economic uncertainty remains around the project, which is backed by Malaysian state-owned Petronas.

He said it is “quite likely” that he would meet in October with the president of Petronas in Malaysia and the presidents of the four minority partners to “restart our discussions in and around our project development agreement.”

“We really need to figure out the numbers,” he said. “The numbers have really got to be tightened down. Because the price of gas in Asia right now is so cheap, because of the price of oil. Just about nobody is globally competitive on a long-term contract they signed before the market crash.

“I know the number they have to get to in order to make it financially viable, I think they’re about 50 cents to a dollar away from that, but it’s a lot better than it was six months ago.”

Coleman co-chairs the BC Liberal re-election campaign and predicted the party would win an even bigger majority for a fifth term in May. He boasted that the party is “better funded than any time in its history” and busy developing its platform. He downplayed this week’s Mainstreet Research poll that said the NDP holds a slim lead.

“I have to tell you this, we’re fully funded for a campaign, our ridings are in great shape, we’ve never been in the financial position we are, we’ve never been more organized before a campaign than we are at this start date today and we are far enough along with our candidates as we are at this start date,” Coleman said. “Four years ago at this time we were 26 points behind. Think about that. Twenty-six points behind.

“Tell you what, with the candidates we are attracting, the organization we have, the work that we are doing, the training that we are doing for our campaign managers, the stuff that we have now on social media platforms and on computer platforms, and all the work that’s getting done and how hard our candidates are doing, I believe we’ll have more seats after this election than we have today, after we come out of May 9, 2017.”

Coleman didn’t mention how much the party has in its war chest, but the BC Liberals reported a $2.894 million surplus for 2015 after raising $9.98 million in donations.

Premier Christy Clark came under fire for hosting exclusive events where donors are charged up to $20,000 to have an audience with her. The party was forced to admit that Clark receives a $50,000-a-year party top-up to her $192,000 salary as premier.

An NDP private member’s bill aimed at following Ontario and Alberta’s bans on corporate and union donations was turned down by the BC Liberals. The party also resisted calls to voluntarily disclose 2016 donors, but does plan to begin regular disclosures in the new year.

The BC Liberal majority dipped to 47 seats against the NDP’s 35 with the August caucus departure of Peace River North’s Pat Pimm, who was later charged with assaulting his wife. Pimm will sit in the Legislature as one of two independents. Andrew Weaver holds the lone third party seat for the Green Party.

Eighty-seven ridings are up for grabs next May, with the addition of one seat each in Richmond and Surrey.