Monday 27 August 2012

Firehall land swap absurdity

You may remember: last week local Winnipeg real estate empire Shindico posted a firehall for sale on it's web site even though, as far as most people knew, it hadn't even been officially declared surplus and wasn't theirs to sell. We later heard some things about a three-for-one land swap, and that the fire hall being declared surplus may need to be formalized by a council vote. The confusion and lack of transparency did not look good, but was not out of character for Winnipeg City Hall either.

Well ....

Turns out, the land swap was not even negotiated by City Hall or Property Planning and development, but by a deputy fire chief.

This fire chief, still believing that what he did was correct, did an interview with CBC to defend his deal...

I don't even know where to begin with this, it's so ridiculous, so I might as well start at the beginning:

"It's like trading in a used car for a new car."
No ... it's more like trading three infill properties for a single piece of land next to a railway track, actually.

"I always thought the more ground work I could do, keeps me out of the bureaucracy, going through all the fine details to get back to where I needed to be anyhow."
You know, there is a reason we have a bureaucracy, including people who specialize in things like ... oh I don't know ... REAL ESTATE. These bureaucrats are paid to do stuff, like calculate financial impacts, ensure auditability, analyze market conditions ... details like that.

Douglas admits he didn't always follow procedure. The City's head of planning admits he had no knowledge of the deal.
Didn't always? This isn't ...  He can't just .... Gaaa, fuck it, on to the next quote.

"Douglas says he and Shindico have a verbal agreement ..."
Oh that's nice. A verbal agreement. What gentlemen.
a) As per Bart Kives on twitter: "It sure is tough to FIPPA (file a freedom of information request) a verbal agreement."
b) I wouldn't swap a car based on a verbal agreement, but three properties? Oh, the nice salesman told me it was worth a million bucks ...  Good grief.
c) Real estate transactions must by law be in writing in Canada. I learned this in my law class. If Shindico felt they had the authority to sell one of the swapped properties in question, you can bet they have something signed by somebody. By who, God only knows at this point.

"A deal's a deal"
Really? Tell that to Crystal Developers, who had a signed and perfectly legitimate contract to build an apartment tower in downtown Winnipeg four years ago, before being told to go take a hike because we had a better use for the land: building a multi-million dollar shrine to Louis Riel. Oh geeze, you say you're having trouble raising money for that? I'm shocked. (Yes, I hold grudges.)

So now, Mr. Douglas, even though you probably had no authority to make the deal, and you followed no processes and by-passed checks and balances, you believe we should be stuck with this potentially ill-advised transaction. Great.

"With a developer, money doesn't mean a lot to a developer. Property does."
It's remarkable how you have such an intimate understanding about developers, what with you working in a fire hall your whole life. Hey, you know who money means a lot to? TAXPAYERS. Just saying ...

Douglas says he'd do the same deal again.
Well then he clearly doesn't understand his job and should resign immediately.


Grumpy Old Man said...

What surprises me is that mainstream media has not picked up on this and pursued the principals. Great post!

Anonymous said...

You went to law school, and yet don't know the difference between it's and its?

Grumpy Old Man said...

That's all you got anonymous?

Anonymous said...

3 for 1? Sign me up!

Anonymous said...

"c) Real estate transactions must by law be in writing in Canada. I learned this in my law class."

Sort of. Legal ownership of land can't be transferred unless a (written) land transfer is registered at the appropriate Land Titles Office.

But, you can enter into an enforceable verbal agreement to transfer land. No writing is required. In Manitoba, unlike many other Canadian provinces, the law that required agreements to transfer land to be in writing in order to be valid (The Statute of Frauds) has been repealed.

So, even though proving your verbal land swap agreement might be difficult, it doesn't mean that it's automatically invalid, simply because it wasn't written down.

Anonymous said...

"Douglas says he'd do the same deal again. Well then he clearly doesn't understand his job and should resign immediately"

I object to this limp wristed attitude that has become de rigeur in this burb.

He should be FIRED.

cherenkov said...

Anon1: I didn't go to law school. I took a contract law class in the CGA program. Also, if that's my worst typo I'm pretty happy.

Anon3: Interesting. When was that appealed?

Anon4: Sure, that works too.

Riverman said...

The arrogance of these hose jockeys never ceases to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

The Statute of Frauds was repealed in 1988. But I spoke too soon - apparently real estate agents can't make binding offers to purchase on behalf of their clients, unless they're in writing. It's in the law that governs the regulation of their profession. Every day's a learning day!

Anonymous said...

Good article. These guys involved are all corrupt bastards and somehow, they just do this without any fear of accountability whatsoever.

I didn't vote for Sam Katz and his cronies feasting together at the public trough..

Those of you who voted for this guy.. hope you enjoy the stench.. y'all farted in your very own phone booth!!

Anonymous said...

The PC title for this scandal would be Cabalgate, but when you read the list of suspects over the years: Sam Katz, Phil Sheegl, Robert and Sandy Shindleman, David, Leonard and Gail Asper, Arni Thorsteinson, Earl Barish, David Wolinsky, Brian Knepper, Robert Akman, Richard M. Leipsic, etc. the more appropriate title for Mayor Katz's shady deals during his time in office would be $hitler's List.

Anonymous said...

@ cherenkov - Why do you allow anti-semitic statements on your blog?

cherenkov said...

I don't delete comments unless I have to, to protect myself legally. The commenter is not inciting hatred, but just exposing his own. I viewed it as being in bad taste and probably written by an antisemite, but not blatantly antisemitic in and of itself.

Besides, it was left over a week after the post was published, so probably no more than a handful of people would have seen it (until this whole thing blew up).

Anonymous said...

@ Cherenkov- "written by an antisemite, but not blatantly antisemitic in and of itself"
That statement doesn't even make sense.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 19 September, 2012 8:34 AM

Kinda' thick? Intentional?

I think there are two ways of looking at the poster: without the "$******" label it is a shot at Katz and his business dealings with a specific group of people.

Add in in the ignorant label and it becomes antisemitic, but not blatantly so.

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