In 2013 Abbotsford won the dubious honour of scoring the No. 1 spot on MacLean’s Magazine annual list – ‘The 99 stupidest things the government did with your money.’ – for the City’s decision to provide a $115,000 bailout to the Ledgeview Golf and Country Club to cover its losses.
It is the only golf course in Abbotsford which the City has favoured with financial support.[The year before we won because of George Peary’s Deal to have his friends and neighbours cover the losses of the Calgary Flames farm team for ten years a deal we just paid $5 million to get out of]
Cover Photo: Ledgeview Golf and Country Club photo
We asked City Manager George Murray several questions regarding the Ledgeview bailout and whether or not taxpayers will ever see their generosity repaid.
Murray Responds To Questions About Ledgeview Bailout
1) Abbotsford Today: Will the taxpayers ever get a proper, public accounting of what went wrong at Ledgeview and how it lost so much money?
George Murray: The Society’s financial records are audited annually by a public accounting firm. The financial issues at Ledgeview resulted from the downturn in the economy, softer golf industry in North America and insufficient oversight. The rent established by the lease does not take into account market conditions and a highly weather dependent operating environment. Staff is in the process of negotiated a new lease model that will be presented to Council in the near future that we hope will address some of these fundamental issues with the current lease structure (see answer to #4 below).
2) AT: Will taxpayers ever be paid back the $50,000 grant and $65,000 in forgiven rent?
GM: The grant and rent forgiven was a one-time action and was provided to ensure the course could continue to be maintained as one of the premier golf courses in BC. The members pride themselves on maintaining the quality of the course and they work hard to do so. Based on last year’s operating results, the board of directors has managed the course well and future financial support is not anticipated.
3) AT: Were the former directors ever required or even asked to be jointly and severally responsible for the debts of the Society … or at least the portion owed to the taxpayers of Abbotsford?
GM:Ledgeview is a register(ed) Society under the Society’s Act of BC. As such, the rules and requirements of any liabilities for any debts is laid out in the Act and its Regulations.
4) AT: Will the new directors of the society provide a public plan for the direction the club will take over the next five years?
GM: The current Ledgeview board of directors has prepared a business plan for the coming years. This plan has been provided to the City of Abbotsford and we are currently reviewing the proposed business plan. Once the review is completed, this business plan will be provided to Council along with our recommendations on how to proceed.
5) AT: The board has been accused of micro-managing every aspect of operations making it difficult for staff to function on a daily/weekly basis. This doesn’t sound like good management practice. Is anyone from the City involved in ensuring Ledgeview is being properly managed?
GM: Ledgeview’s board of directors is a working board and has taken a more active role in the operations of the golf course. In discussions with the board of directors, they believe that they are providing the appropriate levels of oversight and management regarding the operations of the golf course.
6) AT: Members have complained that they have no idea what is going on at the club. Is there any chance we are heading for another bailout?
GM: In discussions with representatives from Ledgeview, we understand that over the past 18 months there have been at least six member update meetings where members are provided with updates and they can ask questions. Members also receive regular emails updating them on events and activities. Ledgeview’s financial position is improving, the rent was paid last year and will also be this year.