Homelessness Debate Gets Occupied

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To preface the upcoming series of political posts I will be posting here I want to clarify that I do not aim to impose my political views on any of the readers. The choice on who to vote for on November 19th is yours and yours alone to make. In the coming days I aim to simply inform those who are interested and let you get to know the candidates a bit better before you head to the polls.

On the evening of Monday the 7th, the two main candidates in the upcoming Vancouver Mayoral Election squared off to debate what is the main topic on most voters minds heading into the polls: Homelessness and Affordable Housing. After a few delays and some opening remarks, Vision Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson and the NPA’s candidate Suzanne Anton took to the podiums for what was set to be a 90 minute debate. A little over two hours later and the crowd (at least me) left with a sour taste in their mouths.

Three years ago Gregor Robertson was voted in as Mayor of Vancouver on a platform aimed primarily on eliminating the growing homelessness problem in Vancouver. “No more homelessness by 2015” was the motto. During his three years in office that motto was altered a little bit to the tune of “No more homeless sleeping on the streets by 2015”. Personally I never felt the first motto was a goal that could have been reached. Year after year more people come to Vancouver from all over North America because of our mild winters. Why do they come here? Because if you are in fact homeless it is much easier to sleep on a Vancouver street in January than it is to sleep on a street in Calgary or Montreal. Before you get all worked up, I understand that their are far more factors than that playing a role in the homelessness problem in the Lower Mainland, but you cannot deny that fact.

Now here we are at the tail end of Robertson’s 3 year term as mayor and we still have 100s of people sleeping on the streets of Vancouver. We do now have 100s more sleeping in heated shelters each night. The numbers are up across all categories on this topic:

  • More people are homeless
  • More people are sleeping in shelters
  • More people are being transitioned into the limited affordable social housing

With all that in mind it looks as though Robertson’s new platform of getting the homeless off the streets by 2015 is moving along, albeit slowly. The debate touched on the change in goals by Robertson and the Vision Vancouver team. Anton was quick to point out that under the former NPA guidance, 14 social housing buildings were ready to be built around Vancouver but none of them have been completed and in some cases none have even begun construction.

  • If elected, Anton promised to “cut the red tape” and get the construction of those houses moving along faster.
  • If elected, Robertson promised to continue work on these buildings in question and to also work with neighborhood planners to find new ways to create and maintain affordable housing in the DTES and in other neighborhoods around the city.

The debate was marred and shaken off topic by a large contingent of Occupy Vancouver protesters who made their way from the Vancouver Art Gallery to the St. Andrews-Wesley Church. Questions AND answers were interrupted by shouts of “LIARS” or “NOT IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD” or the good old fashioned “BOOOO”. The people on the stage, both Anton, Robertson and the moderator CBC Radio One’s Steve Quinn could only look in disbelief as the debate went from organized to an out right shouting match at times. Quinn tried to keep order but it was clear that this was not something that was going to happen on this night.

Will Robertson or Anton be able to solve the homelessness problem by 2015? Will either candidate be able to curb the rising cost of living for the sake of the middle class Vancouverites that can barely afford to live in this city? Both candidates brought their plans to the stage on this night. Will they be able to turn the plans and promises into reality? That is a question we as voters ask ourselves every election. All we can do is put our faith in a candidate and hope that what they are able to take what they said in the months leading up to the election and turn it into reality.

  • To learn more about the election (where, how and when to vote) head over to VancouverVotes.ca
  • To learn more about Gregor Robertson and the Vision Vancouver Team head over to VoteVision.ca
  • To learn more about Suzanne Anton and the NPA head over to NPAVancouver.ca

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