This morning Victoria City Council considered a motion to declare a state of local emergency, which according to Councillor Ben Isitt, would enable them to “provide relief to residents and safeguard the economic base of our community.” The City of Victoria deserves praise for taking a leadership role on this issue, by offering support to the working class -- particularly since the province has yet to step up to support either commercial or residential tenants.
The motion, proposed by Councillors Isitt and Dubow, would obligate both residential and commercial landlords to “continue to provide the [residential/commercial rental premises] for the duration of the emergency on the same terms and conditions (including rent) as existed on March 1, 2020.” It also prohibits residential landlords from issuing eviction notices for non-payment of rent, and commercial landlords from “taking any action (including evictions, distress, or other remedy whether in law or equity) based on failure of tenant to pay rent” for the duration of the emergency.
Council voted to postpone the motion until Thursday, in hopes that the package to support renters that Horgan's NDP has said will be forthcoming on Wednesday will be enough to keep businesses afloat, and renters in their homes. The BC Ecosocialists are calling on all levels of government to take action now. “Whether or not the renters’ package will include measures that will be available in time to help with rent payments due on April 1st, just 6 days from now, remains to be seen,” said Board Member Alannah New-Small.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth (the same person who ordered the RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory) has explicitly discouraged municipalities across the province from declaring a state of emergency, according to Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, according to a report published in the Cowichan Valley Citizen yesterday. “Leadership from the province to protect residents from losing their homes and livelihoods during this pandemic crisis has been absolutely lacking. BC is lagging behind jurisdictions across North America including Doug Ford’s Ontario and Dallas, Texas, by failing to ban evictions during the pandemic. It’s great to see Victoria City Council stepping up to the plate,” said party spokesperson Stuart Parker.
This is the kind of leadership that we need to see from municipalities across the province to protect working people in a time of dire need. Together, we will get through this.