In 2007, Gary Holman, the provincial New Democrat's newly-nominated candidate in Saanich North and the Islands, took responsibility for a capital project that wasted more than $230,000 in public money. But, in an interview on Public Eye Radio, the former Capital Regional District director said he wants people to "understand the broader record" he had as Saltspring Island's representative on that board.
At issue: according to a KPMG LLP audit, the Saltspring Island Parks and Recreation Commission's failed attempt to build a covered tennis court cost Saltspring Islanders $238,254. This, thanks to what The Times Colonist's Bill Cleverely described as a "litany of miscues including procedural omissions, lack of research, inadequate policies and poor public process."
Mr. Holman, a member of the commission, recommended the district approve that project. And, in recognition of his role in its failure, Mr. Holman voluntarily reduced his salary by about 20 percent.
Asked whether the affair would have any impact on his provincial election chances, he said, "Before we get into that - and I will respond to the question - I do want people to understand the broader record that I had on Saltspring. I'm quite proud of it. I'm not particularly proud of the tennis issue. But I am proud of my broader record which meant that we, for the first time, have public transit on Saltspring.
"We've upgraded our local hospital, a number of water treatment facilities - two sewage treatment plants - housing for low-income families and seniors, walking and cycling pathways," he continued. "And, during the tennis debacle, the same parks and rec commission that recommended proceeding with the tennis facility and fumbled that file at the same time built a $6.5 million indoor pool - one of the most complex projects we've ever undertaken here."
Nevertheless, Mr. Holman said, "it's absolutely fair for people to understand what I've done - tennis was part of that. And the KPMG review you just referred to - which went through the project in some gory detail - I requested that that review be done and that an independent audit be done. The recommendations were made. I accepted all of those recommendations."
"I actually feel on that file I let taxpayers down and I said so at the time. I was very clear about that," he continued. "You mentioned the salary reduction. I'm not sure there's any other politician in B.C. who has acknowledged responsibility in that way. And so I do feel I let taxpayers down on that particular issue. But I ensured that the process was reviewed properly, implemented the recommendations and fixed the systemic problems that led up to it."
"The other thing I did was bring in term limits for the commission. The two commissioners who were responsible for taking the lead on the tennis file was the chairperson and the project manager - both of who had been on the commission for years and years. And so, overtime, it kind of turned into an old boys club."