Minister of Housing David Eby called Penticton city council’s decision to try and close a shelter housing 42 people ‘disgraceful’ while opposition leader Shirley Bond called Eby a bully on Thursday morning. (File photo)

Minister of Housing David Eby called Penticton city council’s decision to try and close a shelter housing 42 people ‘disgraceful’ while opposition leader Shirley Bond called Eby a bully on Thursday morning. (File photo)

Opposition leader takes Minister Eby to task over Penticton shelter handling

The two politicians shared jabs during the Thursday morning session of the Provincial Legislature

MLA Shirley Bond, the Interim Leader of the B.C. Liberal Party, took Minister David Eby to task over his handling of the ongoing dispute between Penticton and BC Housing.

The exchange occurred during the Thursday morning (March 18) sitting of the Legislature, and began with Bond listing the communities of Maple Ridge, Kamloops, Nanaimo and Penticton that have had concerns about the lack of supports for those with drug addictions or mental health issues.

She accused Eby of “bullying elected officials,” ignoring their concerns, and cutting funding to Pathways addiction treatment when the city is calling for more mental health support funding.

Eby answered Bond’s question by laying out the two options he saw following Penticton council’s decision to reject extending the permit for the Victory Church winter shelter; either the people were emptied out and risk an encampment, or, as the Minister has chosen to do, use the province’s paramountcy powers to override council’s decision.

“The alternative is — as the member says, and I freely acknowledge this — to use what are quite draconian provincial powers to override that local decision and continue to operate the shelter,” said Eby.

Those powers will keep the shelter open beyond its original March 31 closure date, until BC Housing has finished construction of the supportive housing project on Skaha Lake Road and is able to place people in it.

The city of Penticton is awaiting the formal documentation from the province invoking the BC Interpretation Act before they decide on whether they go forward with legal action, Penticton’s Mayor John Vassilaki told Black Press on Thursday.

If the shelter is closed, the 42 residents currently there would be turned out onto the street, which was not an option for Eby and BC Housing.

“I say to the member and I say to the mayor and council in Penticton: that’s the only non-negotiable. The only non-negotiable is that we will not go backwards and move people out of shelter back into parks. Anything else is on the table. Let’s talk about it. Let’s work together.”

In a supplement to her original question, Bond accused Eby of suggesting that officials in Penticton don’t care about their residents, and that they were “shocked” when the minister decided to use actions instead of discussion with the council on the issue.

“Penticton was shocked when this minister, instead of sitting down and having thoughtful and reasonable discussions about an issue that matters to the local Penticton council and all British Columbians, started to bully and threaten that if they didn’t listen, it was his way or the highway,” said Bond.

“So let’s be clear. Penticton needs — and so do other communities across British Columbia — full, wraparound services to support people with mental health and addictions challenges. That’s what the Penticton council was asking this minister for. Instead, what do they get? Bullying and threats,” said Bond.

Eby said there is no evidence of bullying.

“The member suggests that because I said if Penticton emptied the shelter out into the park, an encampment would likely result, and that our use of provincial powers could result in a court challenge that would result in exactly that outcome. That we would provide tents and manage, as best as possible,” replied Eby.

“We have 1,000 tents in a stockpile. That’s right. We would provide tents to people as a basic shelter from the elements…. The member says that’s bullying. Well, that’s just a fact.”

Eby said he had two Zoom meetings with the city.

“Unfortunately, we found something we disagreed on. That was whether or not we should go backwards and dump 42 people out into a park. I will not withdraw that. That is a disgraceful decision.”

I am very sympathetic to municipal leaders in the time of COVID, facing addiction and mental health issues that are more visible than they’ve ever been. Our government is very sympathetic … We cannot go backwards. That’s the only non-negotiable.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


 

@PentictonNews
newstips@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC HousingPenticton

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nav Canada will not be closing the tower at West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Nav Canada tower to remain open at West Kootenay Regional Airport

The organization was considering closing the tower

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson’s REDress Project exhibit vandalized

The REDress Project brings attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women

Dr. Katherine Oldfield is a naturopathic physician, mother, and active member of the Nelson-West Kootenay chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Photo: Submitted
COLUMN: Restore our Earth, restore our health

Katherine Oldfield marks Earth Day by writing about the priorities we need to have

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time up-keeping the yard? You may be unintentionally contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Shannon Zirnhelt, from left, her son Lockie, 3, Julia Zirnhelt, 13, and Ella Krus, 13, co-founders of Third Planet Crusade are featured in a music video set to air on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

Singer songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt worked with Third Planet Crusade on the project in the Cariboo

Ambulance crews have been busy with a record number of emergency overdose calls this Wednesday, April 21. (BC Emergency Health Services)
B.C. paramedics responded to a record 138 overdose calls in a single day

Wednesday’s calls included 48 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 51 in Fraser Health

Most Read