City of Maple Ridge mails every B.C. municipality looking for support in feud with government
Such campaigns are rare, but the UBCM president says 'it's all part of the process'
There are 161 municipalities in British Columbia with mayors and councils — and the City of Maple Ridge is reaching out to each and every one in its dispute with the provincial government.
Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden sent a message this week to all members of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, asking them to consider passing a resolution about work in collaboration with local communities that, in Morden's words, "is strictly about the importance of local government autonomy."
However, the sample resolution Morden included in his letter includes a clause saying "The Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing has taken unilateral action in Maple Ridge ... setting a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes the autonomy of all local governments."
It comes a month after the province announced they would be building a modular housing complex for Maple Ridge's homeless population in a location where the municipal government asked them to build a seniors' centre instead.
Penticton the first to support
Morden did not respond to a request for comment, but the city's communications manager said council agreed to send the letters earlier this month, and they expect municipalities to add Maple Ridge's request to their agendas in the last week of April.
The City of Penticton has already passed a motion in support.
"We don't feel that the higher levels of government should have that kind of interference in municipal affairs," said Coun. Katie Robinson, who supported her city's motion.
She said that while the city has its own modular housing complex in the works — and is a centre for construction of the units — Penticton council wanted to affirm the broader principle of municipal jurisdiction.
Modular housing. Built locally. Relatively fast to build. And soon it will be 62 units of supportive housing for some of Penticton most in need. This will be a staffed facility as well. See BC Housing for an application. <a href="https://t.co/p6VxOXrXWm">pic.twitter.com/p6VxOXrXWm</a>—@DanAshtonBC
"We have the right to be able to put them where we think it fits into our community the best, because we're here 24/7 all the time and know our community better than anybody from outside," she said.
Nanaimo not on board
However, the municipality Maple Ridge cites the most when arguing there have been issues across B.C. with how the government has put in modular housing complexes won't be giving their support.
"I have seen the letter, I have received the letter, and I've told the mayor I have no interest in getting involved in what I think is a local fight between him and the provincial government," said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog.
Nanaimo has seen tension stemming from its two modular projects, with 1,900 calls to police over three months. And while Krog — a former NDP MLA — has said there have been "significant difficulties" around the housing complexes, he argues it makes more sense to work collaboratively with the province.
"Our intention is to work with the provincial government to ensure we get the housing we need," he said.
"We're very conscious of the fact these problems are not going away and we have to find solutions."
An uncommon campaign
In a statement, Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs Selina Robinson cited the 1,285 units of modular housing that have been completed in 14 different municipalities. She argued that while her "preference is always to work collaboratively with local governments" they were forced to act quickly because of Maple Ridge's attempts to disband the Anita Place homeless camp.
Arjun Singh, the president of the UBCM, said campaigns asking every municipality to pass motions of support are rare, but do come up from time to time.
"It's all good, it's all part of the process," he said.
"This is certainly in the realm of what's allowed."