Tent camp organizer Ivan Drury demands housing from NDP leader John Horgan during his campaign stop in Maple Ridge, May 2017. He faced protests at his latest campaign appearance there over his government’s imposition of transitional housing. (Maple Ridge News)

B.C. VOTES 2020: Few solutions offered for ‘out of control’ camping

B.C. Liberals, NDP spend millions as problem keeps growing

B.C. party leaders are confronted with demands to deal with growing urban camping and associated crime as they campaign for the Oct. 24 provincial election, but after years and hundreds of millions spent to provide housing, they admit the problem is growing faster than the solutions.

Their daily media appearances are dominated by questions about Vancouver’s camps, which former social development minister Shane Simpson has acknowledged are among those that are partly genuine homeless people and partly protest organizers, staging one camp after another.

Simpson estimated in debate on his ministry budget this summer that there were 40 urban tent camps around B.C., with 1,000 or more people living in them. “Those numbers move,” he told the legislature. “What we’re not certain about, of course, is the numbers of people who are in significant need of housing and people who are there for activist purposes as well.”

NDP leader John Horgan has repeatedly said the problem has been made worse by COVID-19, despite recent acquisitions of hotels and motels in Victoria and Vancouver to move people from tent camps, and modular housing in other B.C. communities. He asked for patience.

“We have made progress in real terms but it doesn’t appear that way, when shelter beds, which are often there for those who are struggling to find a place to live permanently, are no longer available, which pushes more people out into the streets and into encampments,” Horgan said at a campaign stop in Coquitlam Sept. 29.

“Despite our best efforts it seems to the public that this is getting out of control,” Horgan said, adding he is “again appealing to federal partners in Ottawa to take a hard look at how they can get back into the business of housing, not just with press releases but with dollars and commitment to planning to help us get through this.”

RELATED: Campbell River park camp ‘went up in flames’

RELATED: Coleman tells councillors they must risk defeat

One of those places is Campbell River, where the local fire department responded Sept. 28 to multiple 9-1-1 calls of a fire in a park with campers in it. B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visited Sept. 29, where he blamed the NDP for a problem he and his government tackled with similar efforts for years before the 2017 election that brought Horgan to power.

“We’ve been saying for weeks now that when it comes to homelessness, you’ve got to treat the causes and prevent the harm,” Wilkinson said. “People are homeless for different reasons. When I go for my bike ride in the morning, there’s a park with two or three vehicles, and people are sleeping in them because they don’t have enough money. Those people need rental supports to get on with their lives.”

Rent supports were part of the approach of long-time B.C. Liberal housing minister Rich Coleman, who started by buying and renovating old hotels in Vancouver’s downtown east side, and then moved on to purchasing motels and disused senior homes in Victoria and other communities. Coleman has urged municipal leaders to stand up to community protests against adding supportive housing for mentally ill and drug-addicted people.

Horgan noted that his government’s use of modular housing and more hotels and motels has eliminated tent camps on Surrey’s Whalley strip, Victoria’s Pandora Street, in Nanaimo and at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver. A court order this summer closed the Oppenheimer camp, which moved to other city locations with the help of organizer Chrissy Brett, who previously gathered street people into a series of camps in Victoria and Nanaimo.

Horgan took aim at Wilkinson’s campaign pledge to eliminate B.C.’s provincial sales tax for a year to leave more money in people’s pockets during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Eliminating the PST will not help one homeless person or one community that feels beset upon by the increase in encampments,” Horgan said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shawn Magnus of Sidney Courier has partnered with Sidney Business Improvement Area Society for free commercial delivery for society members. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney business association partners with courier for free commercial delivery

Service started Oct. 26 and extends to a radius of 35 kilometres

The Starbucks at 3849 Cadboro Bay Rd. closed permanently on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Google Maps)
Cadboro Bay Starbucks closes despite petition signed by nearly 250 residents

Closure part of transition to more drive-thru locations, Starbucks spokesperson says

The iconic and well-loved live music venue Logan’s is permanently closing its doors due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Google Maps)
Fernwood pub Logan’s permanently closing its doors

Live music venue unable to weather COVID-19 storm

Struggling to afford rent, Sylvia Bailey is hoping to trade her love of cooking for some more affordable accommodation. (Photo courtesy of Sylvia Bailey)
Retired Victoria woman looking to cook, clean or garden in exchange for rent

Sylvia Bailey is hoping to use her love for cooking to help afford rent

Theft of $120 in Sharpie is among the files Oak Bay Police Department responded to last week. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man steals $120 worth of Sharpies from Oak Bay Village

Police respond to daytime break-in and theft, among other calls last week

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A video message from Mrime Minister Justin Trudeau was streamed to attendees at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Tuesday morning. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)
Prime minister greets Vancouver Island economic summit attendees

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance conference being held virtually this week

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

Most Read