Mazu founder and CEO Janice Taylor went public last month with complaints about how SIDIT’s loan policies jeopardized the future of her company, a complaint shared by other SIDIT loan recipients. (Barry Gerding - Black Press)

SIDIT complaints review nearing completion

MLA hopes government review of controversy surrounding Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust completed within next 30 days

A government review of complaints filed against the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust could be completed within the next month, says Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart.

Stewart said the report has been undertaken by Bruce Ralston, provincial minister of jobs, trade and technology.

He met with Ralston this week to follow up on the progress of the report, and was told some action should be expected within the next 30 days.

“I think for all of us, the main message is we just want SIDIT to be successful,” Stewart said, noting all the elected MLAs across the Southern Interior share that sentiment.

SIDIT came under fire last month when a recipient of funding from the trust, Kelowna tech company Mazu, went public with concerns the loan policy decisions had jeopardized the future of the company and brought forward complaints from other loan recipients about how they were being treated.

RELATED: Okanagan tech company Mazu jeopardized

RELATED: Kelowna website finds financial life support

RELATED: New SIDIT-UBC co-op grant available for employers

In Mazu’s case, Taylor had to seek an alternative private lender due to a repayment guarantee stipulation SIDIT wanted imposed on a previously agreed to loan extension, which left her staff missing out on two paycheques in January and in danger of the website startup folding.

Stewart said he has spoken with three of the complainants, one of which was Mazu founder Janice Taylor, and with the acting chair of the SIDIT board, Grace McGregor, about the situation.

“We all want to find a solution that is going to see this controversy resolved,” Stewart said.

“I absolutely believe there is a solution to all this, we just have to find it.”

SIDIT was set up to be at arms-length from government but they still have accountability to the legislation act that set it up and government can amend that act if necessary, he noted.

“I guess my only public comment is to make sure there is a degree of transparency, that (SIDIT) can’t operate as if it’s their money, it is the B.C. taxpayers’ money, and that’s probably what the minister feels as well.”

The money Stewart refers to is the $50 million seed money that was funded by the province when SIDIT was created in 2006.

SIDIT was one of three similar trust initiatives created by the Liberal government under then premier Gordon Campbell to help stimulate regional economic development by offering non-conventional loan opportunities, the other two being for northern B.C. and Vancouver Island.

Stewart said a turnover in CEOs over the past two years has both reflected a change in philosophy in how the board treats loan clients, which in turn has generated the complaints, and an apparent lack of specific understanding about how tech company financial lending works within the current administration.

“SIDIT was never set up to primarily be a tech company financial supporter, but as that industry has grown it has become a bigger aspect of business startups seeking funding. I have an idea of how sophisticated that aspect of lending to high tech companies is from my experience when I worked in Southeast Asia trying to help tech companies secure funding,” Stewart said.

“The rounds of funding concept that high tech firms operate under is challenging for most people to understand. It is complicated and I venture to guess most of the board, with many members now newly appointed to the board at the provincial and local levels, are new to all this as well.”

The SIDIT 13-member board consists of eight regional government elected officials and five government-appointed members-at-large.

Okanagan directors include former Kelowna mayor Sharon Shepherd, Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff, Vernon accountant Peter Moore and UBCO vice-principal, research Philip Barker.



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Smoke-free summer a boon for West Kootenay tourism

Tourism centres seeing numbers up

MLA Michelle Mungall to stream live Q and A on Facebook

MLA Michelle Mungall will be streaming a half-hour-long question and answer segment Facebook.

LETTER: Make pot illegal again

From reader Rod Retzlaff

Nelson city council takes e-bike tour of new development

Council has endorsed e-bikes as a means to reduce carbon emissions and support healthy lifestyles.

National trail group decries province’s plans for West Kootenay trail

Converting trail back to motorized use will harm its international reputation, says official

Black Press Career Fair underway in Cranbrook at Days Inn

Opportunities abound for employers and job seekers

B.C. man tells judge he attempted suicide a month before daughters’ murders

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

BCTF says class size, composition at the heart of the issue

Province funds new shuttle buses for 13 B.C. senior centres

Activity, socializing helps maintain health, Adrian Dix says

Thermal imaging cameras eye Salish Sea in hopes of better detecting whales

Cameras installed at BC Ferries’ terminal on Galiano Island, and off southern Gulf Islands

BREAKING: Province approves Surrey police force

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth green-lights city’s municipal police force

B.C. father tells judge he did not kill his young daughters

Andrew Berry pleaded not guilty to the December 2017 deaths

Police watchdog investigating two officers after Langley teen’s suspected overdose

According to IIO, two officers were deployed to help Carson Crimeni but did not locate him before he died

UPDATED: Kelly Ellard gets day parole extended for six more months, overnight leave

Kelly Ellard was convicted of killing 14-year-old Reena Virk in 1997

Most Read