NPA shrouded VAG decision in secrecy. Why?
Thanks to an access to information request, Frances Bula has been now able to report on the secret, in camera decisions of Sam Sullivan’s NPA council about the future of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
In effect, council voted to require the gallery to move to Larwill Park, the block east of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, co-locate it with a concert hall and then “borrow” against future office tower density on the site to pay the $40 million bill to update the Queen E and the Orpheum in time for the Olympics.
The entire concept was part of a “cultural precinct” plan dreamed up with the assistance of Ken Dobell, former deputy minister to the Premier and former city manager, who was consulting at the same time for both Victoria and the city on homelessness. Dobell pleaded guilty to violations of the lobbyist act for these activities.
Given that the VAG’s collection is the property of the City of Vancouver and that it receives $2 million a year in tax-funded city contributions, it’s hard to know why the entire decision needed to be secret.
But secrecy was the order of the day under the NPA. Those secret decisions, now becoming public — and coming home to roost — included:
- the in camera decision to funnel more than $100 million into the Olympic Village development project;
- a host of other Southeast False Creek decisions that have resulted in massive overruns; and
- the approval of the costly new lease at City Square that saw the engineering department move out of City Hall, leaving many floors empty but still fully furnished.