Mayor Robertson points fingers at Victoria for the reason the City of Vancouver couldn't consult
It was another day and another media announcement at Vancouver City Hall yesterday. This time Mayor Robertson was behind his presidential podium to announce he was going to open three new HEAT shelters in Vancouver. The first one to re-open is the infamous Granville street location which helped to generate a ton of controversy last spring after many of its patrons were caught fornicating, defecating and taking drugs in the adjacent areas near the shelter. Two additional HEAT shelters are expected to open in the coming days in trendy Kitsilano and the West End.
You’d think after the PR fiasco he encountered with the initial roll-out (some residents argue roll over) of his HEAT shelters, Vision Mayor Gregor Robertson would have learned his lesson regarding a lack of consultation. It would appear not.
Last spring the Mayor and councillor Kerry Jang, his hapless Minister of Social Services and Community Development, were accused of arrogance and heavy-handedness when it came to their mismanagement of these “no barrier” shelters. Even the Mayor grudgingly admitted that much of that criticism was warranted as the City did virtually nothing to consult local neighbhourhoods before installing the open for business sign. This after the City built up a stellar reputation over the last several decades as one of the most consultative local government's in Canada.
With yesterday’s pronouncement, things appear to be déjà vu all over again. In the news conference yesterday, Robertson indicated he simply didn’t have time to consult with neighbourhoods regarding the opening of these new HEAT shelters. Rather than personally taking the HEAT for this decision not to consult (something he is loathe to do), Robertson pointed fingers at the Province of BC. He told the media he simply didn't have the time so speak with local residents as he only received word of the funding from Housing Minister Rich Coleman in mid-December.
Clearly the Mayor’s spinmeisters must have stayed up late preparing his HEAT shelter speaking notes. Does he really want us to believe that over the last six months he couldn’t find a few hours to consult with local residents in advance of the funding confirmation? What sheer and utter poppycock.
In our interview with Minister Rich Coleman last month on this subject he told CityCaucus.com:
When the City asked us for support this year, we asked them for a plan for what the community engagement would be between now and the time they would open. They've shown us that plan, they're going to go out to the community, they're going to have the discussion with them. So they're going to have a bit more of a process around it. That's to try to mitigate the concerns of the community around security, and [shelter] activity and the timing, because they're only going to open for a short period of time, if they're used. And that means we'll have to have the need for them.
The bottom line is regardless of when the funding was approved, the Mayor and Jang should have been planning for the opening of these shelters months ago. Government’s all around the world plan projects in advance of funding being secured (hello...can you say Evergreen line), therefore, why is this any different? To blame the Province for the City’s lack of consultation is not only lame, it’s completely disingenuous and puts at risk what to date has been a relatively good working relationship between the two levels of government on this file.
After Robertson initially felt the HEAT over the HEAT shelters, he should have shown some leadership skills and immediately directed his staff to do their job. By now, they should have developed a robust and effective communication and consultation plan to engage local citizens. They should have been planning for the possible opening of 3-5 shelters and consulted with local residents last fall. That obviously didn’t happen. Perhaps the Mayor and his staff were simply too busy courting Richard Branson, launching expensive logos and attending conferences in Europe to pay any attention to these types of meat and potato issues?
Robertson indicated yesterday that the long-awaited community consultations regarding the HEAT shelters will come only once the shelters have been opened. In the famous words of Marie Antoinette, this sounds a tad like “let them eat cake”. Unfortunately, this pattern of act now consult later has become all too commonplace with this administration.
I'll leave you with this quote from Vision councillor Kerry Jang in response to angry residents upset about a lack of consultation prior to the HEAT shelter being opened in their neighbhourhood:
That’s where we’re now getting the push back from South Granville people saying, “You didn’t talk to us beforehand.” And quite frankly, if we’d talked to them beforehand, they would have said, “We don’t want this in our neighbourhood.”
- post by Daniel