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LETTER: Provincial housing targets lack transparency for Greater Victoria

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon is pictured here at a housing announcement in Saanich. (Black Press Media file photo)

In the Nov. 8 letter to the editor titled: “B.C. housing targets benefit development community,” I pointed out that the UDI development lobby had been calling for mandatory housing targets for the municipalities. I asked the province a number of questions, including which communities were consulted over the summer to generate the latest set of targets and who exactly was consulted? To my surprise, the Ministry of Housing’s Housing Targets Branch responded the next day to many of the same questions that I had asked them by email on Oct 5. Their response was: “Municipal staff from all 10 municipalities participated in consultation meetings with Ministry of Housing staff.” Translation: the government had consulted itself, bypassing elected councils in the process.

At the Nov. 20 Saanich council meeting, the CAO was asked: “Did staff recommend the target numbers for the District of Saanich for the province to then authorize?” The CAO responded plainly: “No.”

So where did the mandatory target numbers for the district come from? They clearly didn’t come from the ‘consultation’. The province, led by the NDP, simply made them up, and in doing so, essentially told the municipality to swallow the numbers, regardless of the consequences.

Not exactly democratic, but then neither is wiping out public hearings en masse with Bill 44, which was rammed through before the month was over; after the housing minister appeared unsettled, upon being asked pointed questions by MLA Adam Olsen during the legislative proceedings, about the lack of genuine consultation involved.

Also, in the Oct. 5 email from the Housing Ministry, was written: “Individual municipal responses to the Province’s housing targets may be found on each of the respective municipality websites.”

I emailed Saanich’s CAO to ask him: “Where can I find this for Saanich?”

He responded: “Saanich has not published its response and it’s not on the website.”

There you have it. The BC NDP government gets a 0 on transparency and accountability here, but then they didn’t need that to invoke closure on Bill 44 and in doing so, invoke closure on countless public hearings in the future.

Sasha Izard