A proposed referendum on a permanent homeless shelter and a BC Housing facility in Grand Forks failed at Monday’s city council meeting, Oct. 19.
Councillor Neil Krogg had suggested asking voters at December’s byelection if they wanted a year-round shelter and a supportive housing project by BC Housing.
Krog tabled his motion after council asked chief administrative officer (CAO) Duncan Redfearn for suggestions on how to word a referendum or a separate opinion poll.
It would be difficult to give voters a clearly worded question that adequately defined either “a shelter” or “supportive housing,” Redfearn advised council this week.
“Without any context or background information, there is a risk of misinterpretation,” he explained.
The CAO also warned a referendum might have alerted the city to public opinion on housing policy could have misled voters into thinking the city had the authority to act on public opinion.
BC Housing has already committed in principle to funding a supportive housing facility at its property on Grand Forks’ 2nd Street.
“A question that suggests the city has the final say on the provincial government’s use of land or services could reflect poorly on the city if the province decides to proceed regardless,” Redfearn reported.
Council could opt for a communications strategy to inform voters on homelessness and housing policy. But with the byelection less than two months away, Redfearn noted that a communications blitz would require “external expertise” not included in council’s budget.
Next, the CAO suggested that council either put the questions formulated by Krog on a separate ballot, which would carry the weight of an opinion poll, or provide an opinion poll that included background information.
Krog said he believed his questions were valid, telling council, “a communications strategy means ‘let’s take a bunch of time and waste it.’”
Councillor Zak-Eburne Stoodley seconded Krog’s motion, which then failed on a tie.
Councillors Krog, Cathy Korolek and Stoodley voted in favour, with Mayor Brian Taylor and councillors Christine Thompson and Chris Moslin voting against.