Column

A politician, a ski resort and a lawsuit

Allan Fotheringham May 3 1999
Column

A politician, a ski resort and a lawsuit

Allan Fotheringham May 3 1999

A politician, a ski resort and a lawsuit

Column

Allan Fotheringham

Bill Vander Zalm, the former Social Credit premier of British Columbia, is still a factor in provincial politics. With what can only be called the Vander Zalm Party, he is attempting to split the free enterprise vote with the much-favored Liberals. If successful, he just might allow the very unpopular NDP government of Premier Glen Clark to squeak back into office.

Powder Mountain, in the Callaghan valley beyond Squamish at the end of Howe Sound, is closer to Vancouver than the now-worldrenowned Whistler, which is voted by American ski magazines the best sld resort in North America.

Nan Hartwick, a well-known West Vancouver real estate figure, and her daughter Dianne have long had deep roots with Social Credit. The elder Hartwick was taught in Sunday school by Mrs. W.A.C. Bennett, wife of the premier who ruled B.C. for 20 years, 1952-1972.

On Sept. 26,1995, a statement of claim was filed in Supreme Court of British Columbia. The plaintiffs are Powder Mountain Resorts Ltd., Anne Evelyn Hartwick and Dianne Hartwick. (An amended claim was filed this March.)

The defendants are Her Majesty the Queen in right of the province of British Columbia and William N. Vander Zalm. Allegations in a statement of claim represent the plaintiffs position only; they have not been heard, or judged in a court of law.

The reason Queen Elizabeth is brought into this, of course, is because she is owner of the undeveloped Crown lands, “which are the subject matter of this action.” We do not think she will be required to appear in court.

The statement of claim says that in March, 1980, September, 1980, and June, 1985, the ministry of lands, parks and housing for B.C. advertised for proposals “for the development of a four-season destination ski resort” at Powder Mountain.

Powder Mountain Resorts was first in partnership with SITAC International, a French company with resort development expertise, and then with Calgary’s Snow Dance Development Ltd.

The plaintiffs say that they “formally proposed in writing to be the

developer of the alpine ski operation facilities for the Project in conformance with the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act and the Province’s Commercial Alpine Ski Policy, and were the successful proponent in each and every one of the three public proposal calls made by the Province, as referred to in Paragraph 4, with the final such province-sponsored proposal call, in June, 1985, resulting in the public naming of the plaintiff by the Province as the successful proponent in July, 1985.”

Getting back to plain English, the court document then says that the two Hartwicks entered into “lengthy and detailed negotiations”

It goes on: “In or about the month of March, 1987, Kempf, as Minister of Forests and Lands, received a written memorandum from the Premier’s office, under signature of David Poole who was at that time the principal secretary to Vander Zalm, that directed the Minister cease and desist from assisting the principals of the Plaintiffs in formalizing a contract with the Ministry of Forests and Lands for the Project as Vander Zalm had a ‘friend’ who wished to submit a proposal for the Project.”

On March 10,1987, Kempf was relieved of his portfolio by Vander Zalm. On March 19, it states, Vander Zalm’s office informed the Hartwicks that their proposal had been rejected.

On Sept. 8,1987, says the claim, the government entered into an agreement with Callaghan Resorts Inc. for an “exclusive contract” to investigate “ski development opportunities” at Powder Mountain.

‘The Plaintiffs say that the principal of the aforementioned Callaghan Resorts Inc. referred to in Paragraph 30 was the ‘friend’ described in Vander Zalm’s memorandum to the Minister of Forests and Lands referred to in Paragraph 14 herein.”

The Hartwicks say in their claim that Vander Zalm’s government decision “constitutes deceit and/or negligent misrepresentation, distorting or misrepresenting the facts.”

Nan Hartwick’s claim against the defendants is for $400,000 which includes damages for the loss of her residential property which was mortgaged to preserve Powder Mountain Resorts plus various bank loans. Dianne Hartwick’s claim is for $95,000 for mortgages she had to take out on her residential property.

Vander Zalm, on behalf of himself and Her Majesty, filed a statement of defence two years later on Sept. 26,1997. (He had resigned as premier on April 2,1991.) He denied the allegations, asking that “this claim be dismissed with costs.”

A courtroom has been booked in the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver for May 17. The plaintiffs plan to call, as witnesses, Jack Kempf, the Hon. Grace McCarthy—formerly deputy premier to Vander Zalm—the Hon. Moe Sihota and Premier Glen Clark.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers, Shapiro Hankinson & Knutson of Vancouver, state in a trial brief, that “20 days for trial remains adequate.”