Premier hopeful Penticton shelter debate ends up being 'constructive'

Horgan on shelter dispute

Premier John Horgan steered clear of getting involved in the war of words this week between Housing Minister David Eby and the Mayor of Penticton.

Horgan was asked about the dispute Friday morning during a student housing announcement involving Okanagan College.

“I’m hopeful that all elected officials will work together for a common purpose, that is the expectation of the public,” Horgan said. “But there are times when disagreements become public and, again, that is part and parcel of our democratic society.”

Minister Eby declared a “crisis in leadership” in Penticton and warned of tent cities in the community after city council declined to extend the temporary-use permit for shelter at the former Victory Church downtown.

Vassilaki called Eby’s comments “outrageous” and reportedly hung up on the minister during a heated phone call this week. The city has been locked in a dispute with BC Housing over allegations of a lack of support for those living in transitional housing.

Horgan said Friday “debate and dialogue is normally constructive” and he’s “confident that this will be constructive at the end of the day as well.”

“I’ve asked Minister Eby to focus on a daunting task, to address homelessness crises not just in our major urban centres, but indeed right across B.C.”

Horgan was also asked about a warning issued by the Penticton RCMP in advance of a protest planned for Friday afternoon in Gyro Park over the shelter closure.

The RCMP notice reminded potential protest attendees about public health orders that ban gatherings and have been used to fine organizers of anti-mask rallies.

“We are a democratic society and the right to dissent and protest is part and parcel of who we are as Canadians. Having said that, I would hope that people would be mindful that we are still in the clutches of a global pandemic,” Horgan said.

The Premier said the decision by the RCMP to issue the warning was one made by the local detachment and not the provincial government.

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