Liberal leader touches down in Maple Ridge-Mission

It's important to take the time when deciding on where and what kind of a new homeless shelter and supportive housing complex is built in Maple Ridge, says B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark, eight months after handing the issue over to MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton.

"It is a very divisive issue in this community and I think what both of them would say is, we want to find a solution that doesn't further divide the community," Clark said Thursday in the campaign office of Marc Dalton, Liberal candidate for Maple Ridge-Mission.

"We want to make sure that homeless people are looked after, but at the same time we want to make sure that communities are respected. But I know these two guys are going to keep at it," Clark said.

The government has alloted $1 billion for supportive and affordable housing, she added. "We just want to make sure they're done the right way."

Last September, Clark handed the issue to both MLAs after two sites proposed for a new housing complex were rejected by MLAs, following public outcry.

A citizen's committee appointed by the MLAs is now looking for a new location for a shelter but nothing will happen until after the election. BC Housing has committed $15 million for the project.

While Clark spoke briefly inside, protestors carried signs on the sidewalk outside.

Chris Bossley was on the street carrying a sign and said she'll vote NDP, though she's not a party member.

She wondered what will happen when the temporary homeless shelter operated by Rain City Housing closes on May 31.

Thirty of the 40 people currently at the shelter will be moved to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries shelter where they'll sleep on mats on the cafeteria floor for at least six months. But Bossley says the Salvation Army is already full.

NDP member Scott Susin said that solution for the shelter has to come from BC Housing. "That's where Dalton and Bing have totally dropped the ball on that," Susin said.

"They've got nowhere with it."

Bossley said that the MLAs appointed opponents of any shelter to decide the location. "They've totally shirked their responsibility. Basically, what they've said, 'We're going to put a community of citizens to do our job for us,' " Bossley said.

Maple Ridge Teachers Association president George Serra said if Clark wins, the BC teachers will have to bargain for a new contract with the government in two years. "And we know how she feels about public education. The Supreme Court forced her to re-invest in education. It's still a huge issue for us."

Clark said labour peace with the BCTF has allowed the government to reach an agreement with teachers.

Clark's appearance followed three visits by NDP leader John Horgan to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows in the last few weeks.

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