There are questions about renovations at Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster’s office and who owns the building.
The B.C. Conservatives have raised concerns about Foster leasing his 31st Avenue office from relatives of his constituency assistant.
“It is imperative that Mr. Foster answer these serious and legitimate questions at the earliest opportunity,” said John Cummins, Conservative leader.
In 2012, the issue of Foster leasing from the family of an employee went to B.C.’s conflict of interest commissioner.
“You have advised me that your constituency assistant played no part in the sourcing of the space or in the negotiating process,” said Paul Fraser, commissioner, in a letter to Foster.
“The entire process resulted in what appears to have been a full and fair negotiation that was conducted at arm’s length without any special benefit or advantage given or promised.”
Fraser goes on to say, “neither your private interest or that of your constituency assistant were furthered by the lease arrangements.”
The Conservatives have also raised questions about $67,000 in renovations to the building.
“The leasing market at the time was extremely depressed and there were numerous reasonably priced office spaces available that didn’t require tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and renovations,” said Scott Anderson, local Conservative candidate.
Foster says the office was shelled-in at the time of the lease and needed to be completed.
“The price was right. I wanted to be on the ground floor and the parkade is across the street,” he said.
“I didn’t look at anything that didn’t require substantial renovations. It’s a reasonable amount of money for what was done.”
The original bill submitted to the Legislature for payment was $78,000 but that was later reduced to $67,000.
Foster says he was only asked to sign off on the work being done and the cost was between the landlord and the provincial comptroller.
While it’s been suggested that Foster is paying the $67,000 back, he says that it’s standard for the comptroller to pay a bill upfront and then recover those costs through the MLA’s constituency budget.
“There is no additional cost to taxpayers,” he said.
Questions were recently raised about Foster chairing a committee that decided not to retain B.C. auditor general John Doyle. Doyle had issued a letter stating that documentation for Foster’s renovations were not complete.
Foster has stated he did not know about Doyle’s letter and believes the focus on his office lease and renovations are politically motivated.
“It’s an attempt to discredit me because I chair a committee. It’s strictly character assassination,” he said.
Anderson insists he is not attacking Foster.
“I am asking questions that every constituent in Vernon-Monashee and every citizen of B.C. deserves answers to,” he said.