Fredericton — One lone councillor voted against a $2.2-million deal with Vancouver’s Aquilini Properties for a new hotel for the capital city’s downtown. Coun. Randy Dickinson said on Tuesday that it would be wrong to spend that kind of money on a hotel while neglecting more vital issues such as Fredericton’s homelessness problem.
“The extravagance of it blows my mind,” said Coun. Dickinson. “How can we pour money into a facility to house already-rich visitors to Fredericton when the poorest among us are without basic shelter?”
“It’s pretty easy, actually,” replied Mayor Brad Woodside, who then made an off-hand joke that the city could simply house homeless people in the new hotel. “We need a hotel,” said the mayor, “and the hundreds of homeless Frederictonians need a place to sleep. Could kill two birds with one stone!”
Fredericton citizens didn’t take it as a joke, though, and demanded Woodside make good on his promise to go ahead with the hotel — and to let homeless people stay there indefinitely. A new vote was cast, and all councillors were in favour of the homeless hotel.
“This has just gotten out of hand,” huffed Woodside. “We want to be the kind of city that attracts billionaires like the Aquilinis. They won’t make any more agreements with us if we sully their name by advertising their development as a place for vagrants.”
Regardless of what the mayor wants, however, the hotel connecting to the Fredericton Convention Centre will be 8 storeys, 4 of which will shelter the homeless. The other 4 floors will be opened to rich out-of-towners who can afford to spend money and keep the shelter-hotel afloat.
One local homeless man, Eli Kingsley, said it will be a relief to sleep in a warm, comfortable bed this winter. “It’s so nice of the city to do this for us,” he said. “First the Kindness Meters, and now this! Things are really looking up. Normally we’re forgotten, overlooked, and are more or less invisible. Not this year, though.”