The Yukon NDP is accusing the territorial government of springing into action to deal with potential bed bugs in the Yukon legislative building while lagging on helping Yukoners who are dealing with the pests.
On Oct. 19, NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre Emily Tredger told the legislature during question period that two days prior a man came into the building to talk with the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation (YHC) about the government’s lack of action on bed bugs that the man has been allegedly living with for months.
Tredger said the man’s visit spurred immediate action to protect the publicly shared furniture in the legislative office.
“The moment he came to the Liberals’ offices and mentioned the word ‘bed bugs’, they acted. Before he even left the office, signs were put on the furniture that said, ‘Do not sit here.’ Then they were vacuumed and wiped down,” she said.
Last week the News witnessed signs posted on furniture, cleaning of furniture and that some furniture had been replaced with different furniture in the lobby of the legislative building.
“We have seen that, when it affects them, this government can spring into action,” Tredger said.
“Unfortunately, when it’s bed bugs in a Yukon Housing [Corporation] unit, that urgency is nowhere to be found.”
In a motion put forward on Oct. 19, the Yukon NDP is urging the Yukon government to “direct Yukon Housing [Corporation] to reassess their pest policy in Yukon Housing units and include new measures that are responsive to tenants’ complaints and needs in a supportive and timely manner.”
Ben Horowitz, the Executive Council Office’s director of communications, confirmed by email Oct. 21 that furniture in the waiting area outside the cabinet office in the legislative building was recently removed due to concerns over possible bed bug contamination.
“As our priority is the well-being of the public and staff in the building, the furniture has been disposed of and there are no further health and safety concerns,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz said no other furniture or assets in the building have been taken out.
The Legislative Assembly Office has not removed any furniture or posted any signs related to bedbugs, according to a clerk’s email statement.
In response to Tredger’s line of questioning on Oct. 19, Ranj Pillai, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, apologized to the House for not being aware of the situation in the legislative building.
“I don’t know about furniture and bed bugs in the lobby. Maybe I will ask when I go up to get briefed on that, but I can talk to you about how we’re responding for our tenants,” he said.
“We take infestations of bed bugs seriously.”
In a fall 2021 session briefing note, YHC said it does not consider bed bugs an emergency maintenance problem, but the corporation ensures that mitigating bed bug issues is “expedient.”
“To make these treatments successful, tenants may need to discard some personal belongings that are infested with bed bugs. Most clothing and belonging can be thoroughly cleaned and does not need to be discarded,” reads the briefing note.
The briefing note mentions bed bugs aren’t known to spread disease and their bites don’t generally require medical attention.
The corporation’s pest policy states the corporation will typically pay for the cost of necessary supplies and treatment of pest infestations, with the exception of residents who “disregard good housekeeping and/or promote pest infestation.”
In an Oct. 25 email statement from senior communications advisor Julie Ménard, YHC is currently dealing with bed bugs in six buildings.
In the statement, the corporation inspects individual units on a case-by-case basis when notified of a concern by tenants.
The corporation conducts monthly bed bug checks in a building’s common areas.
According to the statement, it takes multiple units on multiple floors reporting bed bugs to trigger a general bed bug concern in a building. When this happens, a pest control contractor comes in to inspect, consult and treat, as required, all units and common areas.
“Yukon Housing Corporation takes bed bugs seriously as we understand it is a stressful situation for our tenants, and the YHC has established procedures for prevention and treatment.”
According to the statement, the corporation’s staff will work with a tenant who finds bed bugs in their unit to provide treatment as soon as possible.
“If for whatever reason the tenant is unable to prepare the unit for treatment, the YHC works with them to explore options for support services. If no supports are available, YHC can hire a contractor at the tenant’s cost,” reads the statement.
“YHC covers the cost of the treatment, as well as two follow-up inspections.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com