Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek with Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s town hall at Vancouver Island University on Friday, Feb. 2. — Photo submitted by Teunis Westbroek

Qualicum Beach mayor asks Trudeau about housing strategy

Trudeau visited Nanaimo for B.C. town hall stop

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek took an opportunity Friday to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau face-to-face about the national housing strategy.

Westbroek asked Trudeau at the prime minister’s town hall meeting in Nanaimo if the PM could address the federal government’s housing strategy, land claims issues and housing for First Nations. Westbroek also said it would be better if parts of the national housing strategy was started sooner than 2019.

“Qualicum Beach has land — Crown land — inside our town boundaries that we could use for (First Nation) land claims and work with them as developers.”

Trudeau responded to Westbroek by saying there are elements of the national housing strategy that won’t kick in until a couple of years from now, and “that is because there is a lot of work to do to get where we need to be.”

“We have worked with community leaders, with municipal leaders, with broad partners across the board to look at how we can be investing in new rental units in new construction (and) in restoration of old rental units, but also looking at transferring, as you said, federal lands to municipal responsibility to be able to create more affordable housing. Because that is a big path forward and we will continue with that,” Trudeau said.

But Westbroek also took the time before Trudeau’s town hall started to speak with Jody Wilson-Raybould, minister of justice, about the same issues he addressed to Trudeau.

“It wasn’t a superficial chat… It was sincere both from the prime minister and Jody Wilson-Raybould.”

Westbroek told The NEWS that if the First Nation land claims were used to build multi-unit rental buildings, it would benefit not only the First Nations, but also the surrounding communities.

“It would help with their housing crisis and it would be available to anybody,” he said. “But the benefit would mostly be for people who need a place to rent, and the revenue would go to First Nations, who would have the land.”

Westbroek said he felt Trudeau’s responses to the questions and comments Friday were sincere, but Westbroek also said a lot of time was wasted by hecklers interrupting the prime minister and people asking questions. Westbroek said it was, “so disrespectful.”

At Friday’s event, some members of the audience heckled and booed Trudeau and expressed opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

“That part; I was embarrassed. He (Trudeau) came to Vancouver Island and that’s the kind of response he got — not from everybody, obviously, but there was quite a few that were very disruptive.”

Send story tips to: lauren.collins@pqbnews.com

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