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

The Trail Smoke Eaters fell 6-1 to the Penticton Vees on Sunday, their third loss to the perennial BCHL powerhouse six games into the 20-game season. Photo: Stephen Piccolo
Penticton Vees dominant in win over Trail Smoke Eaters

Trail Smoke Eaters enjoy two day break until their fourth meeting with Penticton Vees on Wednesday

Kalesnikoff Lumber will be providing materials for a 21-storey apartment building in Vancouver. Rendering: Henriquez Partners Architects
Kalesnikoff supplying mass timber for several major projects

The West Kootenay lumber company will be making the products at South Slocan facility

This painting is a piece from Young Visions 2021, opening April 22 at the Kootenay Gallery. Photo: S. Painter
Showcase of artwork by Kootenay Columbia students opens April 22

Young Visions 2021 runs April 22 to May 29 in the Kootenay Gallery of Art, Castlegar

Selkirk College has received provincial funding to assist students. File photo
Selkirk College receives funding to assist students

Provincial funding is available to West Kootenay students

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

Most Read