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Victoria signals to province: invoice is in the mail

Council has approved $100,000 in stop-gap funding for Our Place to cover operations and a storage facility for the homeless community.
Our Place on Pandora Avenue. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria council says the province can expect to receive an invoice from the city for a $100,000 grant it just approved for Our Place Society.

Council has approved $100,000 in stop-gap funding for Our Place to cover operations and a storage facility for the homeless community.

It’s funding the city has been providing each year for the storage program, but this year Mayor Marianne Alto wants to recoup those costs from the province.

In supporting the grant, Alto said her vote came with strings attached — that the province would be pushed to fund the program or provide better services as part of its Belonging in B.C. program, the provincial homelessness strategy.

Alto said city council has gone above and beyond in stepping in to take on the work traditionally done by senior governments. And she said she would be prepared to expand that work, as she believes municipal governments may be best “positioned to respond to local residents and local residents’ needs.”

She said from now on that work would come with invoices, “demanding payment from other orders of government for the provision of services that the local government will undertake on their behalf.”

Asked by one of her council colleagues if that meant the province would be billed $100,000, Alto said yes, though she admitted there is no indication the province will pay.

“I expect this to be an ongoing and long conversation that is fraught with challenge and difficulty that ultimately we will be able to show evidence is the right way to go,” Alto said.

She told council to expect to take on more of this kind of work.

“I’m going to be presenting council in the coming months with a variety of very challenging decisions that will, I hope intentionally, progressively, proactively, thoughtfully move us into new spaces in the governance of local communities,” she said. “And I think we’re the best people to do it, and we’re going to be challenging our colleagues in other orders of governance to join us.”

The $100,000 this year will come from the Social Policy, Accessibility, and Equity Pilot Grant program.

Council directed city staff to report back with a summary of funding the city provides to organizations to serve the unhoused population so council can consider how to allocate the funding this year.

The motion passed 6-2, with councillors Marg Gardiner and Stephen Hammond opposed.

Gardiner said the city has had enough of funding provincial responsibilities.

“It’s time that we spoke to the province very firmly and said we’ve had enough, and the taxpayers have had enough,” said Gardiner.

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