Discontent City costs top $75K in first two months

By Dominic Abassi
August 23, 2018 - 6:24pm

The City says Discontent City has cost nearly $80,000, excluding legal fees, over its first two months.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — As a B.C. Supreme Court judge continues to ponder his decision on the fate of Discontent City, taxpayers are getting their first look at how much the large homeless encampment is costing the municipality.

Information provided to NanaimoNewsNOW by the City showed costs related to the camp were just under $80,000 up until the end of July. The information was released in response to a freedom of information request. But the actual total cost is unknown because the City refused to release legal costs for their effort to secure an injunction to remove the camp.

The majority of the costs since the camp opened on May 17 were related to staff time, at more than $53,000.

Litter pick up cost nearly $12,000, while one month of portable toilets supplied to the camp came with a bill of more than $2,500.

After being ordered to do so by the region's medical health officer, the City connected running water into the camp. That cost more than $3,000.

Policing costs related to the camp are unclear, however Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Cst. Gary O'Brien said "it is fair to say for protests of this nature the RCMP does bring in extra police resources to ensure the situation remains peaceful and there is a dollar figure that goes with these resources. They are continuously tallied and at some point will be made available to the public."

The municipality pays 94 per cent of wages for regular RCMP members in Nanaimo.

Security patrols around what is believed to be the largest protest encampment in B.C. cost more than $4,000 over the first two months of the camp on City-owned land at 1 Port Dr., across from Port Place Shopping Centre.

The City cost data only covers until July 21 and since then two large-scale rallies have been staged at the camp.

Mayor Bill McKay was asked what he would say to taxpayers upset with the cost burden of the camp wondering why it was allowed to grow to more than 200 residents.

"I have no doubt if we shut that location down right away they would've moved somewhere else in the community, probably somewhere more high profile that would have been an even more significant cost," McKay said.

Coun. Gord Fuller said it's money which could have been directed to attack the homelessness issue in a more efficient manner.

"It's a large amount of money that could be going to rent subsidy, for example. That's money we didn't bargain for that's a cost to the taxpayer," he said, adding he felt the City should release the full cost of the camp, including legal fees, to anyone who asks for it.

As for the undisclosed legal costs, it's fair to assume they are substantial.

The City is using Victoria-based Dominion GovLaw as representation in their submission for an injunction to remove the camp.

Troy DeSouza and Jarrett Plonka have both appeared in court for the City. GovLaw's website said DeSouza has more than 18-years of experience. An article in Canadian Lawyer Mag surveying legal fees across Canada in 2018 found a lawyer with DeSouza's experience would typically bill nearly $400 an hour for civil work.

The lawyers represented the City in court for a two-day injunction hearing in mid-July and again over a provincial fire safety order on Aug. 13. Their offices prepared extensive submissions to the Court with evidence and affidavits from numerous citizens, City staff members and police officers.

It remains unclear when Justice Ronald Skolrood will call the two sides back to court to deliver his decision on the injunction request.

 

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