Victoria tells the province to pay up for high costs of homelessness


In a first for the City of Victoria, the municipality will be sending a bill to the province for services the city is providing that are technically under the province’s jurisdiction.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this council has done yeoman’s work well above its usual capacity or the expectations of traditional governments at a local level in stepping into the spaces that have been traditional responsibilities of the provincial and sometimes the federal governments as well,” said Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto.

In March, Victoria council approved $100,000 to cover operations of Our Place’s storage facility and operation of their community centre, with the caveat that the bill will be sent to the province.

“Is there any indication that the province will pay for this?” asked Coun. Stephen Hammond during the March 14 committee of the whole.

“Absolutely none. I’m being very frank, this is a new direction,” responded Alto.

Alto hinted towards such a tactic in a sit-down interview with CHEK News.

“I expect this to be an ongoing and long conversation, that is fraught with challenge and difficulty, but ultimately we will be able to show evidence, is the right way to go,” said Alto.

The mayor indicated in March that this is a first step, one that Victoria will look to replicate in the days ahead.

“I am prepared to expand significantly over the next coming months…to begin to assert the reality that local governments are best positioned to respond to local residents and local residents needs,” Alto.

“With the clear indication of invoicing, demonstrating and demanding the payment from other orders of government for the provision of services that the local government will undertake on their behalf.”

Alto did not respond to CHEK News’ request for comment Monday.

It’s something Nanaimo tried to do back in November of 2023 when overdose calls more than tripled from 2021 to 2023.

“The question is should local residents taxpayers be paying for what’s essentially the delivery of medical services?” Mayor Leonard Krog posed to CHEK News at the time.

Since then, the City of Cranbrook invoiced the province for costs incurred while managing an encampment. Cranbrook council says the costs of which are a result of lack of housing and shelter spaces, something that is the province’s responsibility.

The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) president Trish Mandewo says you can expect to see a lot more municipalities sending their bills to the capital.

“We are footing the bill and it’s getting increasingly difficult for local governments to balance the budgets,” said Mandewo. “The issue is not going away, so local governments will be stepping up the pressure to have it addressed.”

In September of 2023, the UBCM passed a resolution asking for the province to compensate local governments who provide emergency medical services through their fire and rescue services.

“The Ministry of Health has provided a written response so far which does not directly address the request that we made so I would say the province is aware of the issue, but they’re not prepared to act as of yet,” said Madewo.

CHEK News was shown the response, in which the Ministry appears to suggest municipalities can lower their costs by  having first responders only attend urgent medical calls.

“Establishing an agreement with BCEHS is voluntary and each municipality…can determine the extent of their participation and the calls they respond to. This approach provides municipalities with the ability to directly manage all costs associated with their participation in pre-hospital care.”

The Ministry of Housing told CHEK News in a statement that “neither BC Housing nor the Province have received an invoice for the City of Victoria’s storage program, which has been funded by the city since it was created in 2018.”

Kori Sidaway

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!