Last week’s column on B.C.’s “anti-capitalist” tent camp organizers got some surprising responses, including one from Premier John Horgan.
I raised the question of who is really in charge of supportive housing policy in B.C. Is it Horgan and Housing Minister Selina Robinson, or is it Alliance Against Displacement tent wranglers Ivan Drury and Chrissy Brett, along with their lawyers and financial backers?
All parts of the province struggle with our new generation of wasted street people, mostly feral males left to raise themselves in a culture that worships sex, violence, drugs and rock and roll. And the Left Coast is Canada’s natural gathering place for the drifters and thieves who will do anything but work to support their bad habits. That’s why highway routes into our soft-climate, soft-politics urban regions are where the “tent cities” tend to spring up.
This is being systematically organized in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and southern Vancouver Island. Brett and Drury produce a TV “reality show” where everyone is declared “homeless,” even when most are not, and must be comforted with state money and food. Politicians know that if they question this flimsy fiction, they will be vilified by the feelings-first media chorus as heartless and right-wing.
In fact, Horgan’s NDP government isn’t keeping up with the massive social housing spending presided over by long-time B.C. Liberal housing czar Rich Coleman. And there are signs that Horgan and Robinson are getting fed up with running from staged squat to staged squat with temporary housing and fresh groceries.
“Good column,” Horgan said, flashing me a thumbs up as he headed down the legislature hallway. Perhaps he meant the part about how there are more than 7,000 people on waiting lists for supportive housing in B.C., while trespassing and threats get some to the front of the line. That outrage has to become known before people will rethink the victim narrative they are being fed.
Actual victims write to me. One Nanaimo resident says he was forced to sell and move out of the downtown area due to the expanding squat there. (When free lunch was offered, this particularly nasty camp suddenly doubled in size to around 300.)
He describes a neighbour, a military veteran with terminal cancer, who had his patio furniture stolen and even found someone sleeping in his spare bedroom.
A reader in Courtenay owns an industrial property that has seen two break-ins recently. He has watched a steady stream of people carrying the stuff they have gathered in the community through his property, and is considering a large and expensive perimeter fence.
When the politicians are as fed up as the police officers and paramedics are, we’ll see policy change.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org