24 Hours: In salute of Vision’s swing to the right

Grandma is swinging to the right, and so is Vision Vancouver

My column in today’s 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper talks about Vision Vancouver’s embrace of capitalism. By standing on stage with the well-heeled men and women behind the Streetohome Foundation and BC’s Premier, Mayor Robertson appears to be rejecting Vision’s previous complaints about involving private dollars in aid of our social problems. For example, Coun. Tim Stevenson to The Tyee stated:

"The private funding plan is absurdly complicated. Since the beginning, it seemed less like a workable solution than a way to prod the province into action," said Councillor Tim Stevenson, of the opposition Vision Vancouver party. "Well, now the province is acting. B.C. Housing is back in the game. So why is this necessary?"

Yes, that was then, and this is Vision now. Can you say flip-flop?

Even activist David Eby weighed in saying that the idea was "unworkable":

"I agree that it is important that there be some private sector funding of social housing," Eby said. "But the idea of forcing charity to pay for it is both unworkable and un-Canadian. What will charities be asked to pay for next? Health care?"

We’re seeing a pattern here, eh? Well, it’s pretty clear to me that with their embrace of private partnerships at the Bloedel Conservatory and the Stanley Park Petting Zoo, and Sam Sullivan’s Streetohome concept, that Vision is getting positively William F. Buckley on us.

That’s okay because we can always count on the folks on the left to counterbalance this. Note the press release from a group calling themselves "VANACT!" (or Vancouver Action) that is highly critical of the public-private partnership to deal with homelessness:


In the coming weeks, activists are hoping to place emphasis on the government’s failure to provide solutions to the housing crisis in Vancouver. In a recent announcement to contribute $205 million to social housing in Vancouver, the provincial government is seeking to re-package its current broken promises as “new” housing commitments, according to Vancouver Action activist Nathan Crompton. “The promise for these specific sites was made in an agreement between the city and the province in 2007, and construction was supposed to start in 2008. How on earth are they framing this as a ‘new’ commitment?”

Dave Diewert, of Streams of Justice, stresses “3,200 units of social housing were promised for completion prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. When these 14 sites are finally constructed, the overall promises will still be broken because the Olympic Bid Book put our government on the line for 800 new units of social housing per year, which itself is meager in a city where there are up to 4,000 new condo units constructed per year.”

The completion of the promised buildings will be financed mostly by the sale and redevelopment of Little Mountain housing. Lauren Gill, of Community Advocates for Little Mountain (CALM), criticizes what she calls a “government shell game”. “The province’s needless destruction of Little Mountain last year caused the loss of hundreds of units of affordable housing, all destroyed for the benefit of private developer Holborn. It is absolutely scandalous that the money from the destruction of Little Mountain will now be retroactively funneled into a provincial housing initiative that was already promised years ago.”

Lauren Gill adds: “The current model is to sell off existing social housing units, like at Little Mountain and the Olympic Village, in order to construct some mostly-hypothetical units elsewhere. That is not a workable strategy. It’s not workable because of how fast low-income people across the city are being evicted for market up-scaling and rent increases. The strategy results in an overall loss of affordable options, giving the developers the keys to the city.”

In addition to the $205m from the provincial government, $20m will be provided for construction by private donors and developers. Tristan Markle, of Vancouver Action, says, “it’s offensive that the very same people causing the problem are being credited with providing the solution. Real-estate tycoons and property speculators are creating a citywide housing crisis by driving up existing property values and pushing people out the bottom. Yesterday these same millionaires donated a small fraction of their profits to distract from their culpability. But this inadequate response shows, above all, that the policy of relying on developers and their speculator networks to solve the housing crisis they created has come to an end. We need new, neighborhood-based leadership.”

Yes, Vision Vancouver might be embracing free market ideology, but we can count on groups out there to keep them accountable.

Be sure to pick up your copy of 24 Hours today!

– post by Mike

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  • I wonder if the “Social activists” who are championing the push for much more subsidized housing have been reading the newspapers for the last three years? Maybe they are not fully aware that Provincial revenues have plummeted and we are running deficits. Should we borrow more money to pay for these peoples’ homes? I think not. It is time for them to find homes in places that they could afford. Winnipeg is one example where housing is much less costly that here. Time to hop on a bus folks and head east.

  • Max

    Every time one of these ‘advocate’ groups stands up and complains about the lack of social spending – never enough in their eyes, or in this case – how the money is being ‘acquired’ and how it is being spent, this quote pops into my mind:
    “You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that, my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.
    You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”
    (The late Dr. Adrian Pierce Rogers, 1931-2005)

  • Did I say that outloud?

    The quote by Rogers cited by Max reminds me of dialogue from a Monty Python skit.
    Creating a picture of a dichtomy of society made up of 50% “haves” and 50% “have-nots” is ridiculous. My eight-year-old niece has more sophisticated thinking. If half of our working-age population did not work and relied on welfare to survive(or attempted to anyway) our economy and society would grind to a halt. To characterize the vast majority of people who belong to the working class or middle class as being either: working and ready to throw in the towel, or, not working and sucking on the tits of the wealthy (which apparently half of our population seems to be, according to Rogers and Max). Rogers says, “You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it”. I say, “You cannot solve complex social and economic problems by simplifying them”

  • zzTop

    I voted Vision last time, but will be voting COPE in ’11. These guys have lost their way and sold out to the private sector. At least COPE has principles. Nobody actually knows what Vision stands for, except getting re-elected.

  • John

    “You cannot solve complex social and economic problems by adding more complexity and cost to them.”
    fixed it for ya.

  • Higgins

    Bob Hawkins,
    Apparently you’ve already missed the designated Clown Bus. They honked and honked, but you were too busy leaving your juvenile comment on CityCaucus’s blog. I am far from being a social activist, as a matter of fact I am quite the opposite. But your comment simply made me puke. After all, if everyone here are going to be replaced by people like yourself,the people you advice to leave are definitely going to be better off in…Winnipeg.

  • Did I say that outloud?

    Again, dichotomous thinking. Going around in circles makes one dizzy, not witty.