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Business groups say Dec. 2 too soon for them to discuss downtown social issues

A homeless man at his camp spot at the foot of Third Avenue in Prince George. Bill Phillips photo

Three business organizations want to present their views on solutions to the downtown social issues on December 16, rather than December 2.

City council has announced it will hold a regular public council meeting on Monday with social issues being the only item on the agenda. Following presentations from the City, Prince George RCMP, and Northern Health, members of the public will be invited to present to council.

The Prince George Chamber of Commerce, Downtown PG, and the Gateway Business Improvement Area, who represent more than 1,200 businesses across the city, say this Monday’s meeting will be too soon for the organizations to formulate a response.

The Prince George Chamber hosted a on November 12 with participation from Downtown PG, and the Gateway BIA.

“At that meeting, we committed to our members that we would take their feedback, develop specific policy recommendations, and bring them back to the aforementioned membership group for further feedback,” says a letter sent to Mayor Lyn Hall and signed by Lorna Wendling, president of the Chamber of Commerce; Eoin Foley, president of Downtown PG; and Ken Leboe, president of the Gateway BIA. “We committed to doing this in a transparent manner, with their involvement, and their specific views considered. Within these recommendations, our organizations are developing specific policy and budgetary recommendations to be considered for City of Prince George’s 2020 budgetary cycle. Given that our organizations were given three business days notice of council’s December 2 meeting, the timeframe does not allow our organizations time to re-engage those impacted to discuss our proposed policy recommendations, and make any necessary amendments as we had committed to do. We plan to adhere to our commitment to proper consultation with our members, and any businesses who would like to participate, and will be meeting with them on or before December 11.”

Member of the three organizations will be at Monday’s meeting, but will not make a presentation. They will, instead, seek to appear before council as a delegation at the December 16 meeting.

“Social issues such as mental health and addiction are serious societal problems, and Prince George is certainly not alone in working to support those affected, while also striving to create improved social outcomes,” reads the letter to the mayor. “The negative social outcomes from these systemic problems affect many aspects of a community, including but not limited to, the business community that supports and sustains a thriving community. Through our consultations, we heard consistently that business owners and operators did not feel engaged, listened to and incorporated into the discussion on social issues. As a result, we have committed to taking a leadership role, acting as an advocate for the business owners, operators and their teams – providing sound policy recommendations to all levels of government. We recognize that all three levels of government must be engaged to find solutions to these issues, and it is not solely one party’s responsibility.”

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