Premier John Horgan
NICK PROCAYLO / PNG
Opinion: Over 10,000 Maple Ridge residents signed a petition against a provincial housing project for residents of a homeless camp. The province is forcing through the project anyway. Now the battle is escalating.The mayor of Maple Ridge is taking his fight with Premier John Horgan provincewide.Mayor Mike Morden and his council are furious at the Horgan government for forcing a 51-unit, low barrier housing project on the city to house former residents of a homeless camp.The “low-barrier” designation means residents will not be banned from using drugs and alcohol, leading to fears of crime and mayhem in the neighbourhood when the project is completed this fall.The province says the project will include round-the-clock “wraparound supports” including mental-health and addiction care.But Morden said the services aren’t adequate.“When you’re taking people out of a camp, or people fully entrenched in street life, you need a full continuum of services,” Morden told me.How does he know the services will be inadequate? Because of problems created at another low-barrier project in the city, also installed by the province over the city’s objections.“We have a whole facility of people not moving forward with their lives,” he said. “There’s crime taking place there. People have died there.”He said the city needs a “comprehensive health-care facility” focusing on mental health and addictions.
Anita’s Place homeless camp in September, 2018.
Francis Georgian /
Now Morden is taking his fight with Horgan to other municipal mayors and councillors. In a letter sent to every municipal council in the province, Morden sounds the alarm over provincial bully tactics.“Consider the ramifications of this unilateral action by the province to overrule municipal land-use regulations,” Morden wrote. “In our view, it sets a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes the autonomy of all local governments.”And it’s not just about homeless shelters, Morden wrote, warning fellow mayors that the province might to try to force unwanted garbage-incineration facilities or cellphone towers into communities without local approval.He ends with a plea for municipal councils to pass resolutions calling on the Horgan government to back off and respect local autonomy.A municipal backlash might embarrass Horgan as the NDP government pushes ahead with the Maple Ridge project, expected to be completed and ready for residents by October.But now the opposition Liberals are entering the fray, slamming the housing project in flyers mailed to Maple Ridge residents this week.“Maple Ridge deserves better,” the flyers say, while singling out the city’s two NDP MLAs. “Bob D’Eith and Lisa Beare are following orders from John Horgan and Maple Ridge is paying the price. Your NDP MLAs are missing in action.”Watch for the Liberals to increase the pressure in a city where they desperately want to win back the two seats they previously held.Horgan will face a test of political will on this unpopular housing project, especially if it becomes clear the New Democrats could lose the ridings to the Liberals if he plows firstname.lastname@example.org/MikeSmythNewsCLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com.