The two social planners would help deal with homelessness in Maple Ridge.

The two social planners would help deal with homelessness in Maple Ridge.

Maple Ridge councillor wants new vote on social planners

Council approved $195,000 expenditure while he was away; mayor will considering bringing issue back.

Coun. Bob Masse is hopeful Maple Ridge council will revisit its decision to spend $195,000 to hire two social planners to help deal with homelessness.

Masse’s absence during a prior vote allowed the controversial expenditure to proceed, and he expects a new vote with all six active council members present.

With Coun. Corisa Bell missing council meetings due to illness, the seven-member council has been operating down a member.

Under rules of order, any council vote on a motion that results in a 3-3 tie are lost.

Last month, Masse said having the vote while he was away on a holiday was “bad faith” and “political opportunism.”

The mayor has the authority to bring a vote back for reconsideration, and Masse will ask Nicole Read to do that.

“That’s what I’m asking to have happen, and what I think will happen,” said Masse.

He has asked staff about the process, and it can be done.

Masse wants a do-over on the original motion to spend $195,000 to hire the social planners – expecting it will be lost in a 3-3 stalemate.

“It was a very significant item during the budget discussion,” Masse added.

His position, which is also held by councillors Gordy Robson and Tyler Shymkiw, is that council should not take on responsibilities better left with senior governments.

Shymkiw walked out of the Feb. 20 meeting in protest when Masse was absent.

Mental health, access to detox facilities and addictions treatment are all provincial matters, said Masse.

“I don’t think going further along that track is the best thing.”

The $195,000 expenditure may not seem like a large part of an operating budget of approximately $110 million, Masse added, but much of the budget is made up fixed costs, such as policing and unionized staff positions.

So, he said, $195,000 is a significant portion of what could be considered discretionary spending.

“There’s a lot of really good work we can do with $200,000.”

The vote on hiring the social planners wasn’t on the council agenda that day, but was added during the meeting.

“It’s just not the way we do business. It’s not the way we roll,” Masse said.

Read said she will consult with each member of council before deciding whether to bring the matter back for a vote.

But she wants a full debate about the hiring of the two planners, and see if a compromise can be reached, such as hiring one rather than two.