Tent city campers have moved to David Shebib’s residence in Saanich (Sam Seera’s property), after leaving Goldstream campground Oct. 2. (Travis Paterson/News staff)

Absent Saanich mayoral candidate subject of all-candidates forum

David Shebib missed the third straight all-candidates’ forum, but nonetheless generated attention

David Shebib, the Saanich mayoral candidate, who invited 20 homeless people to stay on a rural property Tuesday, was a subject of conversation during Saanich’s third all-candidates’ forum, despite his absence.

“My understanding from the Saanich News today is that David Shebib was trying to solve that problem himself, by inviting 20 campers to come to his property,” said Rob Wickson, to gentle laughter from the audience, as the candidates addressed a question about homelessness. He added that the complexity of the issue goes beyond a 30-second soundbite and that any solution needs to involve the homeless themselves.

Shebib — who is running for Saanich mayor against Wickson, as well as incumbent Richard Atwell, and Coun. Fred Haynes — could not respond, because he has yet to attend any of the three all-candidates forums so far. He also skipped a forum exclusively for the mayoral candidates organized by the University of Victoria Tuesday afternoon.

RELATED: ‘They had nowhere else to go,’ mayoral candidate hosting tent city campers

But Shebib, who has a checkered political past, injected himself into the public discourse about homelessness Tuesday, when he invited the remaining 20 to 25 homeless campers evicted from Goldstream Provincial Park to stay at 5090 West Saanich Rd., a rural property in Saanich.

Most of the group has been together since the tent city at Regina Park and wanted to stay together. They moved in Tuesday afternoon and set up camp next to the house, with the stated intention to remain at the location until Oct. 20.

RELATED: Owner wants tent city campers off West Saanich property

But this move has a hitch. While Shebib operated a business on that property, he is neither owner nor tenant, said Sam Seera, who co-owns the property with Gurpal Aujla.

While many attending Tuesday’s forum at Claremont Secondary school were likely unaware of Shebib’s ownership status, his move nonetheless gave the general subject of homelessness and the municipality’s response an added currency.

Several of the 18 candidates for councillor — all of them non-incumbent — openly criticized the timing of Saanich’s decision to accept help from the provincial government to build supportive housing in exchange for municipal-owned land.

RELATED: Saanich offers land for housing for the homeless

Ned Taylor said he was disappointed that the municipality did not accept this exchange until two weeks ago.

“This issue has spiralled out of control,” he said, adding Saanich should have been more pro-active. Rebecca Mersereau agreed. “A more compassionate response is also a more cost-effective response,” she said.

“I hate to say this, but I’m on running on a platform, to accept millions of dollars in free supportive housing, when offered from the provincial government, and I will lobby for more,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, who accused the current council of dithering and failing the tent city residents.

Atwell, who had previously taken credit for securing the supportive housing, for his part attacked council for failing to support his initiative consider the former Emily Carr library as a potential housing site for occupants of the Regina Park tent city.

RELATED: Saanich mayor pitches former Emily Carr library as housing site

“It’s a viable site,” said Atwell. “Unfortunately, the council has chosen to spend $2 million on a very minor renovation because we have three staff members in the hallways,” he said. “That decision should be re-visited. It’s a poor decision.”

Coun. Fred Haynes acknowledged the complexity of the issue, adding that the homeless are active participants. Municipal, provincial and regional governments have committed $90 million dollars towards the issue, he added. He also broadly defended council’s record.

“You elected this council to take care, and we are taking care,” he said.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell refuses to stop distribution of election brochure

The District of Saanich has asked United for Saanich to “immediately” stop distribution

West Shore RCMP tape off Langford law office sent suspicious substance last month

No confirmation as to why police were back at Hemminger Law Group Monday afternoon

Saanich municipal candidate plays politics by a different tune

Trevor Barry is using musical earworms to strike up voters

BC SPCA sees successful weekend from adoption sales

On Saturday animal shelters across the province reduced their adoption fees

Campers near Saanich municipal hall await response from transportation ministry

MOTI expected to decide Monday when campers need to leave

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

Allen died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

Most Read