This is my column from 24 Hours this week...
When it comes to B.C. politics, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan casts a long shadow. Along with his wife Kathy, who currently holds a prominent spot on the NDP opposition benches in Victoria, Corrigan tightly holds the reigns of power right at the geographic centre of Metro Vancouver.
Opposition to his Burnaby Citizens Association political dynasty is all but extinct in the suburb city. Even though public service unions have their man in charge, Corrigan has run a fiscally tight ship. A case in point is how Burnaby has dealt with its homeless problem.
The city has simply chosen to ignore homelessness within its boundaries.
According to recent stats about 250 homeless reside in Burnaby. Just like Vancouver where homeless rolls have risen by 12 per cent since 2008, the homeless population is not shrinking across Boundary Road either.
More troubling, however, is the recent news that 10 homeless people have died on the streets of Burnaby since 2007. When asked about it, Corrigan goes into his NDP message box and blames the provincial government for not providing funding.
No social housing has been built, nor do any permanent shelters operate within Burnaby, and only one temporary shelter operates during extreme weather. Burnaby taxpayers might think they’re getting a good deal, but there is strong evidence by ignoring the problem it becomes infinitely more expensive to deal with.
While Corrigan is correct that social services are a provincial matter, jurisdictions all over the province are realizing they can’t wait around for Victoria to solve their problems. Vancouver, under the previous NPA administration, is one example.
The centre-right NPA secured more commitments to social and supportive housing from the province than any administration in the city’s history. They did so by providing land already owned by the City of Vancouver, and waiving many development charges.
Minister of Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman calls this “bringing something to the table” to make a deal – the majority of the costs are covered by the province to design, build and operate social housing facilities. But Vancouver, Langley and other towns and districts have figured out they must chip in.
It seems Corrigan will simply not bargain with Coleman, with the end result being a Mexican standoff between the two political adversaries. Meanwhile, the body count racks up in Burnaby.
By all accounts Corrigan is seeking a fourth term as mayor. He can take pride in his work in building Burnaby up from a sleepy suburb since he first took a council seat in 1987. But a better legacy would be for him to show he cares most about those who have the least.
The citizens of Burnaby want homeless in their midst taken care of as much as any other city. For the current pattern to end, Corrigan is going to have to give a little.
- post by Mike. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeKlassen