We, the elected members of Quesnel City Council want the public to know that the Mayor has acted with the full consent of Council and the advice of City staff, and he has taken the steps we believe are necessary to protect the public interest and advance BC Housing's proposed project in the most transparent and open manner possible.
After the first public information session and public hearing for this housing proposal it was evident to Council that there was considerable confusion about what services would and would not be provided in the new facility, that there was concern on how the current Seasons House facility has been run, and that people were unclear who would hold the operator of the new facility accountable if the considerable public safety issues created by Seasons House started to be realized at the new facility. Members of the public clearly told Council that they did not want "Seasons House" moved to the other side of the walking bridge, many others have indicated that they support building a new facility at the Elliott Street location but not with the current operator.
When it became evident that there were significant public trust issues associated with the current operator of Seasons House, Council unanimously passed a motion, in an open public meeting, strongly advising BC Housing to tender the operating contract for the new facility in order to give the new facility a clean break from the stigma that had become associated with "Seasons House" and to give BC Housing's proposal the best possible chance of advancing through the bylaw process. On the basis of this resolution the Mayor rightly briefed the Minister responsible for Housing and the CEO of BC Housing as to why the City of Quesnel was recommending an open tender process be used to determine the operator of the proposed new shelter and transition housing facility. These meetings were held at the Union of BC Municipalities Convention and when the Mayor spent a week in Victoria meeting with the Premier and a number of other Ministers to advance our community's priorities. The intent to have these meetings and the nature of them were made public at open Council meetings both before and after the meetings were held.
We are obligated during any bylaw or development permit process to ensure the public has full and transparent access to all necessary information so they can give us informed opinions. We also have an obligation to protect the safety and interests of the entire populace when we make decisions, we cannot discount the concerns of any segment of our community when we make decisions that will have long term implications for our community. Council fully supports the need to build a new transition housing and shelter facility, but we must exercise due diligence as we go through the bylaw process to make this facility possible. The Mayor and Council are not being "obstructionist" as QSSS has repeatedly claimed, we are merely following due process and being diligent in doing so.
Finally, the contention by QSSS that the Mayor, Council, and/or City Staff forced BC Housing to cancel their public information session is patently false. BC Housing is an independent agency and Council has no authority to compel this agency in any matter. This is one of the reasons why Council and the City of Quesnel must make every effort to get clarity on the proposed new facility and the services that will be provided there prior to giving assent to this proposal: after the facility is built and operating the City of Quesnel has no tools to regulate those activities or directly address any public safety issues that arise. This is why Council and the public needs to have confidence in the process to determine who will operate this new facility and confidence in the agency that will operate it.
The proposed Elliott Street project is still in process and City staff continue to work with BC Housing to advance this project through our bylaw process. In the meantime, shelter and transition housing support services are still being provided at Seasons House, so no one in our community is being put at risk while Council continues to fulfill its legal obligations and exercises the due diligence that the public rightly deserves.
It is our sincere hope that the Quesnel Shelter and Support Society will stop inflaming the community dialogue around BC Housing's proposed Elliott Street housing project by making misleading claims about the actions of the Mayor, Council, and City staff.
Councillor Roodenburg, Councillor Paull, Councillor Coleman, Councillor Brisco, Councillor Thapar, Councillor Elliott