A Regina city council motion to address homelessness has led to two city councilors filing a lawsuit against the city manager.
Leblanc claims that new city manager Niki Anderson failed to adhere to council directives by not including the financial implications to ending homelessness in the preliminary budget.
The lawsuit filed in the Court of King’s Bench calls for Anderson to include a preliminary estimate of $24.9 million in the proposed budget to end homelessness.
“This would require elected councilors to publicly take a position on homelessness, which is a big issue in this city. If it’s not in the proposed budget, it’s possible for us to hide behind it and have no mention of it and that is an accountability issue,” said LeBlanc.
Back in June of this year, a motion was passed unanimously for city administration to include in the proposed 2023 budget full operational funding to solve homelessness throughout the city.
“It’s important that our unelected city manager follow the clear direction of elected city officials and that’s not what happened here,” said LeBlanc.
After Wednesday’s city council meeting, Mayor Sandra Masters was asked for her thoughts on her colleague’s lawsuit.
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“If you’re asking me personally, I think it’s disgusting,” said Masters.
Masters added she felt the actions of Leblanc and Stevens contained undertones of sexism in regards to Anderson, who is the city’s first female city manager.
“Niki Anderson has been our city manager since November 1. I think it’s an awful way to treat not just any employee but a new employee. I don’t think this would have been been the action undertaken a year ago,” said the mayor.
Masters suggests a more appropriate avenue would have been for LeBlanc and Stevens to gather four signatures from council members, which would call a council meeting on the matter.
Regarding the June motion, Masters says those numbers are all included in the budget book released this week, but that city administration was never told to recommend the funding.
“If you look at the transcripts from that June 15 meeting, you will see that when questioned about it, it was simply going to be debated at budget time and that’s what council understood,” said Masters.
City administration said the high costs of the project was the reason for the omission in the preliminary budget.
They reported that an estimated $122.5 million would be required to implement a housing-first model to address homelessness.
In the lawsuit, Leblanc only added the $24.9 million operating amount, saying that the $122.5 million is the capital amount, which is baseless.
“We currently have 700 vacant social housing units and 500 homeless folks. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put homeless people in vacant housing,” said LeBlanc.
The court date is set for November 29. LeBlanc is hopeful for a court ruling before December 14, when council is slated to debate the city’s budget.