An exchange over a supportive housing project in Central Saanich saw local MLA Adam Olsen accuse the provincial housing minister of having lost the confidence of the community, while David Eby questioned Olsen’s tone in raising questions about the project.
The April 29 exchange between Olsen and Eby, who is also Attorney General, marks the perhaps most high profile discussion of plans by BC Housing to build supportive housing at 1909 Prosser Rd.
The project calls for 39 supportive units for what BC Housing describes as people at risk of homelessness in the Central Saanich region. While construction is underway, the project continues to draw protest from nearby residents, whose criticisms have in turn led to charges that they are stigmatizing vulnerable populations.
The question of who stands with whom in this debate also loomed large in the question period exchange between Olsen and Eby, which saw Olsen criticize the informational politics of the provincial government.
“For the last month, the fear and anxiety in the community has been increasing, and where information lacks, people are filling the gaps on their own,” said Olsen.
“Every day this government is losing ground, not just in the neighbourhood but also for the potential future residents of this project. This project was supposed to help marginalized people. Instead, the process has further stigmatized people who do not need more obstacles put in their way.”
Eby acknowledged problems while also trying to push Olsen into the corner of critics.
“It doesn’t mean that there are never problems,” said Eby, responding to Olsen during their first back-and-forth. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have to work together to address them. But even before a single person (living in the facility) is identified, to talk about the impact? That’s not helpful.”
Olsen later asked Eby what his ministry would do to regain the confidence of the community and make new residents feel welcome while also signalling his support. “Of course these projects need to go in communities, and I support that,” said Olsen. “I support diversity. I support inclusion. The suggestion otherwise is ridiculous.”
Eby acknowledged key aspects of the project – including the actual contractor working for BC Housing –remain unknown with community engagement still unfolding. “The member (Olsen) wants all the information in advance. The information doesn’t exist yet. BC Housing is still building it,” said Eby, adding that the ministry is moving as quickly as it can to get into get people into supported housing. “I know that the member and I agree on this. That’s why I’m frustrated, in some respects, with the tone of his question and some of his suggestions, because we’re on the same page.”
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