EDITORIAL: Focus the anger

Instead of sniping at each other, municipal leaders are better off trying to get some of the $500M available from province

The question, in the form of a headline on the front page Thursday, asked: is the City of Parksville doing enough to combat homelessness in the city?

The story was spurred by a heated exchange in city council chambers last week. Coun. Leanne Salter suggested the city only pays “lip service” to the problem. She went as far as to say “shame on Parksville.”

Mayor Marc Lefebvre took exception to those comments, saying “Parksville does more than its share.”

Coun. Kirk Oates, a refreshingly frank politician who often provides a rudder for this council and consistently shows leadership qualities that may suggest higher office in the future, was even more succinct in his response to Salter:

“Perhaps you (Salter) might want to educate yourself before you come in here and accuse us of doing nothing,” said Oates.

Sniping at each other in council chambers is not going to help the situation. It seems a lot like misguided anger, energy that could be focused better to a destination that can do something about homelessness in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

In September, the provincial government announced it was committing $500 million dollars to make sure more B.C. families have access to affordable housing. The premier said a total of 2,900 rental units will be created in partnership with non-profit groups, local governments, community agencies and the private sector. The government said it’s the largest single housing investment in a single year by any province in Canada. The money will fund a mix of housing for low-to moderate-income earners, seniors, students, adults with developmental disabilities, aboriginals and single parents.

The challenge for local governments in places like Parksville and Qualicum Beach is to get on the province’s radar. The affordable housing/homelessness crunch is obvious and well-documented in Vancouver and Victoria.

Instead of infighting, local politicians would better serve the community by focusing on getting a chunk of that $500 million. In Parksville Qualicum Beach, that means supplying MLA Michelle Stilwell with the ammunition she needs to make a case for some of that $500 million to land here, like the low vacancy rate and the shockingly low amount of properties available for rent here compared to the percentage in other areas of the province.

— Editorial by John Harding

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