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

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil Forfeiture Office alleges Crescent Beach home used to launder money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Incumbents Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP) and Ian Paton (BC Liberals) are set to serve another term in office representing Delta North and Delta South, respectively. (Submitted photos)
UPDATED: Incumbents hold on in Delta North, Delta South

Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP) and Ian Paton (BC Liberals) lead in their respective races; mail-in ballots still to count

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

Delview Thanks4Giving committee members Alexa Liptak (left) and Amanda Quibing stand with the donation box outside the school’s front entrance. (James Smith photo)
Thanks 4 Giving food drive going drive-thru due to COVID-19

Organizers hope North Delta residents will come to them for Delview Secondary’s annual food drive

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read