(Face in hands) Ugh!
I honestly hoped for better this time around, folks, but alas it would not be so.
You may recall the well-worn tactic by the Mayor's office to try and publicly embarrass Housing Minister Rich Coleman into funding the City's homeless shelter program. They did this back in the summer of 2009 during the HEAT shelter debacle, where the Mayor's office made their requests for funding via media announcements. Well, it appears that Robertson's people are using the same script, but only the dates are changed.
On Sunday The Province published Damian Inwood's interview with Gregor Robertson where the Mayor was able to repeat his spin that he's cut the numbers in half when in fact homelessness went up by 12% on his watch. Our readers may recall that the City of Vancouver spent $75,000 on an extraordinary homelessness count last spring when a federally-funded comprehensive regional count is taking place next year.
Minister Rich Coleman has tried to keep the focus on funding permanent housing, which is the reason why the Streetohome Foundation – the private funding brainchild of former City Manager Judy Rogers and Ken Dobell made possible through the Project Civil City initiative – have backed off from paying for temporary shelters.
Coleman has blinked in the past – handing over shelter funding last June. Robertson & Vision thanked the Provincial government by voting for an anti-HST petition booth right in City Hall. But just a few weeks ago the Minister appeared to send City Hall a pretty clear message he's not playing ball with them on one front, after he leaked to Frances Bula that he was denying all three applications from non-profits for the Olympic Village social housing.
Robertson uses homelessness tragedies as part of his personal political narrative with great effect. You may recall that Gregor Robertson used the death of a homeless person as his February 2008 motivation to quit as MLA and run for the Mayor's job. Here is what he said when announcing his candidacy:
I reached a turning point [and decided to run] a few weeks back, on hearing news about a tragedy… A homeless man named Darrell Mickasko burned to death trying to keep from freezing on an icy cold night on the streets
Robertson even mentioned Mickasko in his December 8, 2008 inaugural speech:
a man named Darrell Mickasko, after being turned away from a full shelter, burns to death in a sleeping bag, trying to stay warm with his camping stove on a freezing night. If our vision of Vancouver is to become a reality, homelessness must end – and I tell you today that it will end
In the Province story Robertson makes reference to another person who died under similar tragic circumstances
...when a homeless woman known as “Tracey” burned to death in her shopping cart after lighting a candle to try to keep warm.
“It was only days after I got into office that Tracey died on Davie Street because she couldn’t access a shelter,” said Robertson on the eve of Homeless Action Week. “A shelter opened, literally, a few days after that, just a few blocks away. We weren’t in time to save her.”
Like last year, Robertson said that he was only reminding Coleman that it was the Province's job to pay for his shelters.
“You wonder if pointing fingers about who’s going to pay for this looks destructive and petty,” he admitted. “And yet we need to count on the governments that have been charged with these responsibilities to honour them.”
Inwood catches up with Rich Coleman, who once again emphasizes the creation of permanent housing solutions. Two hundred more units are coming online this winter in Vancouver, says Coleman. As for Robertson's request the Minister says:
They usually ask for more . . . while not necessarily remembering what we’ve done
In recent months the Vision Vancouver government have raised eyebrows with controversial expenditures such as $3.2 million for the Hornby bike lane trial, over $300,000 for a study to tear down the Georgia & Dunsmuir viaducts, $114,000 on contracts with FD Element to promote Gregor Robertson's public image, $260,000 to renovate Gregor Robertson's office, and nearly $200,000 on a sole-sourced contract with Linda Oglov to market Vancouver and Gregor Robertson during the 2010 Games.
If you happened to catch CTV News on Monday night you would have seen Councillor Kerry Jang out at Union Gospel Mission doling out turkey meals. Reporter Peter Grainger's story was about what most of us do during this weekend where most of us spend time with loved ones. The exchange with Jang went as follows:
Reporter: What are you thankful for on this Thanksgiving?
Jang: That I'm standing here and I'm here and able to do something. Not just lying around at home and stuffing my own face, but actually helping someone else to get better.
I have to wonder what families watching at home, no doubt loosening their belts from too much stuffing and mashed potatoes, must have thought about Jang's remark.
- post by Mike