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)

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

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

As indicators of progress on the way to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, five “Big Moves” have been identified through the draft Climate Action Strategy. (Township screengrab)
Plan to fight climate change gets nod from Langley Township council

The plan looks ahead to 2050 and plans for a zero-carbon future

Langley RCMP has twice issued fines to Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
No action on tax penalty for churches defying COVID orders in Langley Township

Council heard that such a move would be legal, but couldn’t be retroactive

Nancy More has been a brewmaster for more than 30 years and has a scholarship award named after her. (Joshua Peter Grafstein/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
New award to help post-secondary students named for Langley brewmaster

Kwantlen Polytechnic University brewing student first recipient of Nancy More Award

Sources Community Resource Society received $70,777 from SurreyCares Community Foundation in July. From left: Denise Darrell, executive director of Women, Seniors & Community Services of Sources; David Young, chief executive officer of Sources; Christine Buttkus, executive director of SurreyCares; and Linda Annis, director with SurreyCares. (Submitted photo: SurreyCares)
Sources Community Resource Society received $70,777 from SurreyCares Community Foundation in July. From left: Denise Darrell, executive director of Women, Seniors & Community Services of Sources; David Young, chief executive officer of Sources; Christine Buttkus, executive director of SurreyCares; and Linda Annis, director with SurreyCares. (Submitted photo: SurreyCares)
Langley agencies share more than $100,000 in COVID-related grants

Money will allow adding staff and expanding services during the pandemic

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Sooke’s Amy McLaughlin holds Theodore, a bunny who will be going to a new owner in Nanaimo within the coming days if all goes will at an upcoming bunny play-date. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Vancouver Island woman looking to hop into bigger space for bunny rescue operation

Amy McLaughlin has rescued more than 400 bunnies, pushing for the capacity to help more

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to cisc-icca.ca.
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

Most Read