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Cranbrook to bill province for encampment costs

Cranbrook city hall. Trevor Crawley photo.

Cranbrook city council has passed a resolution to send a bill to the province for managing encampment costs incurred by the city, following a motion introduced by Councillor Wes Graham.

Graham justified the resolution by noting that the province, through BC Housing, is responsible for providing housing, however, local governments are incurring downloaded costs to manage encampments in communities where not enough housing options or shelter spaces are available.

“The rationale behind this is quite simple, is the province has a duty to provide the resources necessary for the population and the unhoused,” Graham said, adding that the city is bearing increased costs through bylaw services, and fire and protection services.

During a Sept. 25, 2023, council meeting, city staff said $62,000 had been spent on encampment clean up and security in the summer, projecting that the total cost would be up to $90,000 by the end of 2023. During that same update, staff also estimated Bylaw operational supplies costs would be up to $20,000 by the end of the year.

At last fall’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, the local government body endorsed a resolution to lobby the provincial government to direct BC Housing to provide management and oversight of encampments in communities across B.C.

Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Price noted that the city serves as a regional hub for social services, adding that the Regional District of East Kootenay has contributed financial support to the newly-created Social Development Coordinator position.

Price said there’s “nothing ventured, nothing gained” by sending a bill to the province.

“If we don’t make them aware that we have concerns and we can’t afford to continue doing this, we don’t have an argument going forward, so I think this is a very good first step,” Price said.

Whether the province picks up the tab remains unclear.

“The purpose of this is to send a message,” said Councillor Mike Peabody. “The chances of us getting our expenses covered, I would say would be slim to none. If it happens, fantastic, but I will vote in favour of this in order to send the province a message that our municipality, as well as other municipalities throughout BC, are experiencing costs like never before and I think us, as well as other people, we need support in how those costs are covered.”

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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