Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.


The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Les oversaw pro-development culture where laws treated as 'guidelines'

Chilliwack officials were encouraged to see municipal and provincial laws as mere guidelines while John Les was mayor, according to a special prosecutor's report released today.

“The members of Chilliwack's Planning and Development Department were encouraged to consider government regulations and municipal bylaws as guidelines only, with the goal of finding creative ways to 'make development opportunities happen,'” said the report by Special Prosecutor Robin McFee.

“Mayor Les and most members of Council embraced this pro-development philosophy such that staff were encouraged, both directly and subtly, to adhere to what was described as an attitude of innovation and creativity . . . particularly with respect to the processing of applications for development.”

McFee today recommended three criminal charges against former Chilliwack approving officer Grant Sanborn, but found there was insufficient evidence to charge Les, who was Chilliwack mayor from 1987 to 1999 before becoming a B.C. Liberal Party MLA in 2001 and later the solicitor general.

An RCMP investigation into land dealings in Chilliwack started in 2006 and generated a list of 80 transactions for McFee to examine. Several showed errors in judgment and decisions contrary to the Official Community Plan, the Land Title Act and the Agricultural Land Commission Act, the report said.

McFee, however, recommended charges against Sanborn related to only two of the transactions, including one where Les was the developer and main proponent. He did not recommend charges against Les.

“When interviewed by the investigators, Mr. Les acknowledged that the goal of the Rosebank subdivision/development plan was to create 'nice residential properties in the agricultural zone,'” the report said.

“The creation of residential properties in the agricultural zone was contrary to Chilliwack's Official Community Plan and was also contrary to the intent of the ALCA and Regulations. As such, it can be reasonably said that the Rosebank subdivision should not have been permitted to proceed.”

McFee found that while Sanborn gave Les preferential treatment, there was no evidence that Les encouraged that treatment. Whenever the matter came before Chilliwack council, Les cited a conflict and recused himself, the report said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus