Staff of the NDP cabinet minister who is the subject of a BC Liberal conflict of interest complaint say she did not participate in the decision to grant $15 million to the purchaser of her husband’s investment property.
In one of her first acts as Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship, Josie Osborne announced the sum on April 21 for Watersheds BC through the MakeWay Foundation for indigenous-led or co-led watershed restoration projects.
On Sept. 17 of last year, Osborne’s husband George Patterson sold the Tofino Botanical Gardens for $2.3 million to MakeWay. The 12.128 acre waterfront property on Pacific Rim Highway, built in 2006, includes a dormitory and cafe, and had been listed for sale at $3.75 million in August 2020. Osborne’s public disclosure statement said Patterson receives consulting/contracting income from MakeWay.
Neither Osborne nor MakeWay CEO Joanna Kerr responded for comment. But a statement from the Ministry said the grant decision was made when the program fell under the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. After becoming Minister for Land Water and Resource Stewardship, it said, “Osborne set up a screen with the Deputy Minister for Land, Water and Resource Stewardship to recuse herself from any decision-making involving MakeWay.”
“This is in line with public service processes for preventing and managing any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.”
The ministry called the BC Liberal complaint inaccurate and said Osborne has contacted the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, Victoria Gray, “to ensure that she has all the information necessary to resolve this matter quickly.”
The gardens’ company, Coastwise Holdings Corp., is registered to the address of Vancouver law firm Miller Titerle and Co. and the two directors are MakeWay director of finance Danae MacLean and MakeWay shared platform director Elizabeth Howells. The gardens have been rebranded as the Clayoquot Campus.
MakeWay is formerly known as Tides Canada, the environmental charity that has supported causes opposing the oil and gas industry.
According to Osborne’s public disclosure summary, Patterson may have used some of the proceeds of the land sale to buy shares in pipeline companies Fortis and TC Energy, parent of Coastal GasLink. On Sept. 27, 2021, he also bought shares in Loblaw, BCE and Algonquin Power. The form is a summary of what is provided to the conflict of interest commissioner, but does not list quantities or dollar amounts.
Marine biologist Osborne is the former Tofino mayor who was elected the Mid-Island Pacific Rim MLA in 2020. She became the Minister of Municipal Affairs and, earlier this year, was shuffled to the ministry sometimes referred to as “Land WARS.”
The complaint about Osborne would be the first B.C. conflict of interest case involving gardens in more than 30 years. Social Credit Premier Bill Vander Zalm was forced to resign after Conflict of Interest Commissioner Ted Hughes found Vander Zalm used his office in an attempt to sell Richmond’s Fantasy Gardens to Taiwanese billionaire Tan Yu.