As various locals fight a move by the provincial government to ship land title documents from Kamloops to Victoria, it is interesting to look back 16 years, when officials in the Lower Mainland were fighting to stop their records from being moved to Kamloops.
And, amid this political soap opera that is so blatantly transparent in its partisanship, we should also pause and remember that no political party is innocent in this land title tumult.
The current NDP government certainly deserves to have its knuckles rapped for making an utter mess of this issue.
To recap, the two Kamloops B.C. Liberal MLAs — Todd Stone and Peter Milobar — were doing their jobs well when, a couple of months ago, they mentioned hearing rumours the Kamloops land title office might be closing.
It turns out they were on to something. While the office isn’t scheduled to close (yet), land title officials finally confirmed to media that documents stored here would be moving to Victoria and that staff in Kamloops would be leaving their offices in the Kamloops Law Courts to a yet-to-be-determined location in the city.
In a March 21 email to KTW reporter Sean Brady, the Land Title and Survey Authority said:
“We are currently seeking alternate space in Kamloops, which will be a smaller, modern office in keeping with the quality of our other land title offices in Victoria and New Westminster.
“The Kamloops hard copy records will be moving to our state-of-the-art vault space in Victoria, where they will be conserved as required. There will be no reduction in staff in our Kamloops office.”
That was close as anybody has come, as far as I can tell, in trying to find out why the records are being moved.
That they are being moved without consultations with local MLAs, city council or First Nations in the area is offensive.
And it has prompted Whispering Pines Clinton Indian Band Chief Michael LeBourdais to launch legal action this week to stop the movement of the original documents.
While the current NDP government, from Premier John Horgan down to Forests Minister Doug Donaldson (whose ministry administers land title registries), should be criticized for this boondoggle, let’s not forget that other governments under different political flags have done exactly the same thing with land title offices — including the B.C. Liberals.
For more than a century, there had been seven land title offices in the province: Kamloops, Nelson, Prince George, Prince Rupert, New Westminster, Vancouver and Victoria.
Following the NDP’s election in 1991, those seven offices began to be reduced, with Vancouver records moving to New Westminster, Prince Rupert records moving to Prince George and Nelson records moving to Kamloops.
In 2003, under the B.C. Liberals, the Prince George land title office was closed and all its records moved to New Westminster. At that time, the B.C. Liberals also announced plans to close the Kamloops and Victoria land title offices and move those records to New Westminster.
(So, as we can see, such decisions are not exclusive to particular political parties.)
But, as a Kamloops Daily News article of April 5, 2003, notes, then-premier Gordon Campbell was praising a plan by Kamloopsians — including then-mayor Mel Rothenburger — to convince the province to instead move the New Westminster records to Kamloops and use this city as a centralized land title registry.
Alas, Vancouver city council and others in the Lower Mainland balked at the plan, leaving the land title grouping as we see it today.
This brief history illustrates that how dastardly a government decision is remains predicated on which side of the legislature aisle one sits.