VICTORIA (November 22, 2022) – Kevin Falcon and the BC Liberals are calling on Premier David Eby to explain why he buried a now-leaked report that outlines severe financial and organizational mismanagement at BC Housing and Atira Women’s Resources Society, B.C.’s largest housing provider.
“As Housing Minister, Premier David Eby ignored the findings of a now-leaked BDO report that showed considerable financial mismanagement by Atira Women’s Resources Society,” said BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon. “Whistleblower documents show that NDP housing ministers David Eby and Selina Robinson consistently supported Atira with record levels of funding, despite knowing its track record of questionable financial practices. There is no way Eby was unaware of the situation at BC Housing and Atira, and yet he chose to bury the report and hide that information from the public — all while pouring hundreds of millions of public dollars into an organization that not only couldn’t be trusted to manage money, but was also failing to look after vulnerable British Columbians.”
The leaked report reveals that Atira’s board was making decisions based on, “incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information,” and operated under “assumptions that [budget] overages will be covered by BC Housing.” The ongoing dysfunction at Atira led staff to “look for ways to reduce the pressure on cash flow with other downstream consequences.” Media reports and FOI documents show that before the deadly fire at the Winters Hotel in Gastown, fire extinguishers were empty and had not been replaced by Atira staff. The leak of the BDO report, commissioned by the former BC Liberal government but delivered to government after the NDP came to power, comes in the wake of an Ernst and Young review, released on June 30, 2022, which found significant and widespread mismanagement problems within BC Housing had spread under Eby’s watch. At 6:34 p.m. on Friday, July 8, 2022, Eby quietly announced he had fired seven members of B.C. Housing’s NDP-appointed board.
“Eby was well aware of the ongoing mismanagement at Atira and BC Housing, and did little to address the disastrous situation,” added Mike Bernier, BC Liberal Critic for Housing. “These reports paint a clear picture of an organization in chaos, including one where the NDP-appointed Board of Directors allowed the CEO of BC Housing to personally approve more than $100 million in property acquisitions without requiring any documented due diligence. It’s no wonder that the NDP has utterly failed to reach their housing goals when they cannot even address the mess that BC Housing has become on their watch. It’s time for a full, top-to-bottom audit of BC Housing and for the Premier to finally be honest with British Columbians.”
Since learning about the financial mismanagement at Atira, the NDP government has provided the organization with more than $120 million in funding via BC Housing grants for programs ranging from housing to childcare. However, recent information has come to light showing that only 7.5 per cent of Atira’s annual budget goes to direct supports. As of this month, Atira CEO Janice Abbott has refused to disclose her taxpayer-funded salary.