Council motion pulled Tuesday due to confusion around scope of Kamloops' new researcher-in-residence

New city role needs clarity?

There is some confusion at Kamloops City Hall about the scope of the work that will be undertaken by the newly appointed researcher-in-residence.

Coun. Dale Bass' motion to direct the newly appointed researcher to study the city's housing supply was taken off the table Tuesday due to uncertainty around the scope of the researcher's role and the city's ability to provide direction.

At Tuesday’s special council meeting, called to discuss motions directed at alleviating the city’s social issues, councillors and staff talked through Bass’ recommendation, which would have included a study of the affordable market housing supply for couples, families and vulnerable populations.

However, Barbara Berger, the Arts and Community Development manager for the city, said a portion of the funding they received for the researcher-in-residence pilot program was from Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that connects academics with industries needing research-driven business solutions.

According to Berger, when applying for funding, the city had to identify what possible research topics might be and, as such, there may be parameters created around what can be studied.

“We certainly knew that social issues and issues around housing challenges and needs would be a very important research topic,” she said.

“But getting to the kind of specifics, and that directive, is something I think could become a little bit challenging. I feel that if we basically can find a way to support the researcher-in-residence within this social and housing portfolio, we can take this conversation back.”

Berger said Dr. Cheryl Gladu, the new researcher-in-residence, was meeting departmentally with city staff and intending on coming to council in June to get ideas for possible research activities.

“I think what she’s going to be able to do within parameters of Mitac and social housing is going to be of great interest to council,” she said, adding she just wanted to be cautious about how detailed of a directive council was considering.

Coun. Sadie Hunter said she wasn’t aware the scope of research would be tied to Mitac funding specifics.

“I feel that was mischaracterized,” she said.

“My understand of the position, it was going to be partnership between TRU and the city, and then her wages would be supported accordingly. I’m not sure when that changed, but I feel that changes the nature of her position in the way it was originally approved.”

Coun. Dale Bass told council she wanted to withdraw her motion given that revelation.

In an interview with Castanet Kamloops, Bass said she was surprised and confused by the statement from staff.

“That was the first time we had heard that there was some specific requirements from the funder, Mitac, on what the researcher-in-residence is allowed to research,” Bass said.

“That's why I withdrew it, because it became clear from what Ms. Berger said that she can't do what we wanted to do, even though we thought that's why we got her.”

Bass said she found the explanation around the researcher-in-residence’s role unclear, and said will be seeking further clarification at a future meeting.

“I now really would like to know what this position does entail, and how they can say that a study on housing in the city isn't a community issue," she said.

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