Public survey results in regards to the City of Penticton’s simmering dispute with the province over the operation of an emergency winter shelter have been released, and the results are telling.
The survey, prepared by independent consulting firm Discovery Research, saw 3,472 general public surveys completed.
An additional 421 residents were randomly sampled through the Shape Your City database, the city’s public engagement tool. The two community surveys took place between March 31 and April 10.
The majority of respondents supported Penticton city council in its decision not to approve a permit for the temporary shelter on Winnipeg Street to operate year-round.
Council green-lit a temporary use permit in October 2020, as the city was experiencing a lack of shelter space due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city said.
The original intention was for the shelter, which has 42 beds, to stay open until April 1, 2021. The province wanted to continue operating it, citing a need in the community, but council denied BC Housing’s request.
Sixty-four per cent of the general public respondents and 61 per cent of the random sample respondents supported the city’s decision, results show.
Only 47 per cent of respondents aged 19-39 agreed with city council’s decision to not extend the permit, compared to 69 per cent of respondents 65 years or older.
There is less of an appetite, however, for the city to launch a costly legal battle against the province.
In response to council’s rejection of its permit application, the provincial government invoked paramountcy powers and continued to operate the shelter, by circumventing municipal bylaws.
Survey participants were asked if Penticton city council should exercise its legal right to challenge the province in court, at a cost of $200,000-$300,000.
Among general public respondents, 51 per cent agreed that council should consider a legal challenge regarding closing and/or relocating the shelter, while 39 per cent of random sample respondents agreed.
When asked their view of the provincial government’s decision to invoke its powers to overrule the decision of council, 66 per cent of the public survey disagreed or strongly disagreed with this decision compared to 67 per cent of the random sample survey.
“Council will discuss the survey results in detail during tomorrow’s meeting,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki.
“Today I want to thank the thousands of Penticton residents from across the spectrum of our community who answered Council’s call for feedback. The Province’s failure to prioritize feedback has triggered the situation we’re now facing, a situation that pits neighbour against neighbour and government against government.”
The complete results of both surveys are available on www.shapeyourcitypenticton.ca
During Tuesday’s meeting, staff will also present several recommendations for council to consider as possible next steps.
- Directing staff to continue to negotiate solutions with the Province, BC Housing, the landlord, and operator to immediately close the 352 Winnipeg Street temporary winter shelter and respectfully transition all 42 current shelter stayers into other housing situations.
- Directing staff to continue to work with the landlord to reduce nuisances and calls-for-service (Bylaw, fire, and RCMP) under the Good Neighbour Bylaw, and for the City to take the appropriate measures to designate 352 Winnipeg Street as a Nuisance Property under the Good Neighbour Bylaw if nuisances and calls-for-service do not immediately stop.
- Directing staff to draft a letter on behalf of the City formally requesting that the BC Premier immediately intervene in the issues around the 352 Winnipeg Street temporary winter shelter, including the Province’s intentional acts to contravene Council’s two unanimous and lawful decisions not to extend a Temporary Use Permit at 352 Winnipeg Street and the City of Penticton’s Zoning Bylaw.
- Directing staff to begin pursuing all injunctive actions available to the City through the courts, with the understanding that this procedure may cost up to $300,000.