‘Not accurate’: Housing minister fires back at Liberal leader over homeless supports in Maple Ridge

BC Liberals back Maple Ridge on provincial homeless policy
WATCH: Aired April 8) B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has come out in support of Maple Ridge's battle against the NDP government on homelessness, saying the government is trying to force a "one size fits all" solution that won't work. Jill Bennett reports.

B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson has written a letter to B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson to correct “inaccurate statements” he has made about planned modular housing units in Maple Ridge.

In the letter sent Wednesday, Robinson says Wilkinson is wrong when he suggests the proposed modular housing unit ignores the addiction issue and does not provide 24-hour support.

“These statements are not accurate,” Robinson writes. “In fact, our modular supportive housing provides the exact type of support you outline.

“Every new supportive housing project delivered through the Rapid Response to Homelessness program is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by trained and dedicated staff,” the letter continues.

READ MORE: ‘Our city, our choice’: Residents rally against province’s Maple Ridge housing plan

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The ongoing spat is over the planned modular housing project on Burnett Street. Robinson announced in March that the province intends to build 51 units of supportive housing on province-owned land, with construction slated to begin this month.

The development would be enough to house the 47 people who have been registered as residents of the Anita Place homeless camp, which was evacuated after several fires and safety hazards.

The City of Maple Ridge doesn’t want the housing project in that location, approving its own social housing plan for the homeless at the site of the city’s one existing temporary modular housing project on Royal Crescent.

READ MORE: Province to move ahead with Maple Ridge supportive housing without city’s support

Wilkinson jumped into the debate this week, siding with Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden and against the B.C. government.

Wilkinson says the provincial government is “forcing temporary housing in the wrong location” and should allow Maple Ridge to have the power to determine where housing will go.

“Ignoring neighbourhood concerns, dismissing advice and suggestions from local representatives, and disregarding the real need for recovery and treatment options for people who truly need our help is not helping,” Wilkinson wrote in the Maple Ridge News on April 8. “It is certainly not leadership.

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“We need a provincial government that values local knowledge and public engagement. Maple Ridge deserves better.”

WATCH: Protest over province’s housing plans in Maple Ridge

Protest over province’s housing plans in Maple Ridge
Protest over province’s housing plans in Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge city council has voted against having the project on Burnett Street.

Morden says the housing is not “comprehensive enough” and won’t improve people’s lives. The mayor is also angry the province is trying to overrule a decision by council.

“My message to the province is let’s work together, and my council doesn’t have a seat at the table and would like it back,” Morden said.

“When the government is taking the step of unilateral action, other municipalities need to be aware that this is happening. Because if I was to insist that a garbage incinerator or prison was established in someone else’s community, that is not right.”

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READ MORE: Maple Ridge mayor says province is ‘taking voice away’ from local voters

Robinson is also concerned about comments made by both Wilkinson and Morden about the death of two individuals at Maple Ridge’s current modular housing unit in Royal Crescent. Robinson says it’s “inaccurate” to link the deaths to the living conditions because they both had pre-existing health issues.

“I hope you will not continue to repeat these inaccurate statements, and, if given the opportunity, will clarify the record,” Robinson writes.

Morden himself is also in some hot water over comments made in an interview posted to his YouTube channel last week.

“I see us becoming for some reason a hotspot in the Lower Mainland for people coming here to carry on doing drugs and basically raping and pillaging our businesses, and that’s gotta stop,” Morden said in the 34-minute video.

Morden is not apologizing, but in a statement explains the words weren’t appropriate. He says he has seen an increase in theft in the city driven by drug addition and that housing doesn’t solve addiction.

—With files from Erin Ubels