An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
KAMLOOPS CITY COUNCIL is, no doubt, paying close attention to Penticton City council’s fight with Housing Minister David Eby.
Unlike Kamloops lawmakers, the mayor and council in the Okanagan city are standing their ground on the issue of wrap-around services for social housing. Things have gotten testy down there, with Eby threatening to force the city to keep a temporary shelter open.
At one point, the Penticton mayor hung up the phone on Eby. It all has to do with a 42-bed shelter the council decided to open during the winter months.
But the facility has brought some problems to the downtown area and the council is refusing to issue BC Housing an extension to a temporary use permit unless guarantees are made that wrap-around services — counselling, security and so on — are provided.
The situation looks close to what Kamloops and several other cities are going through as the socially marginalized population grows. But while Kamloops council backed off on a plan to insist on comprehensive services for all social housing projects, Penticton isn’t budging.
An angry Eby says he’ll use provincial powers to overrule its decision. This, despite the council’s efforts to find alternative housing for shelter residents.
Eby’s heavy handed approach illustrates a long-festering disrespect for municipalities. Cities and towns are, theoretically, a separate level of government but they remain under the control of Victoria, which has steadily downloaded social housing in their direction.
Eby’s disdain makes it plain how far his government is willing to go in bending municipalities to its will. All of this might bode poorly for Kamloops’ hopes of forging a new, more equitable partnership with BC Housing but several mayors and councils are making their frustrations heard.
The housing minister knows all about dumpster fires and he’s stoking up a new one. Clearly, problems are widespread and badly in need of action. Putting the screws to local governments isn’t the way to do it.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.