By Bridget Burns
Vancouver-Hastings needs to hear from its election candidates.
For too long, the NDP has complacently assumed victory in my neighbourhood, doing little between votes to make good on their election promises.
This year, with the incumbent in my riding stepping down and a lack of debates due to COVID-19 and the snap election, the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Hastings hasn’t even had to face their opponents, or the public, to explain why things don’t seem to be getting any better for the people who live here.
As the Green candidate for Vancouver-Hastings, I’m challenging my political opponents to a debate in front of the residents of our riding. People deserve to hear from those who are trying to earn the privilege to represent them.
My riding, and that of Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, have both been NDP-controlled since their creation in the early 1990s. In Ottawa, Vancouver East has been represented by the NDP for all but eight years since the 1960s.
As such, the NDP feel comfortable taking East Van for granted, confident it’s a safe seat for them, even as life gets less safe for residents facing insecure housing, spiking opioid-related deaths, and looming ecological breakdown.
I don’t want to sound like I’m disparaging East Van. I was raised here; I still live here; and I love it here. It’s such a dynamic part of our city, with so much to offer. But it breaks my heart to see, election after election, broken promises and my neighbours suffering.
That’s why I’m running for office. I want to show the people of Vancouver-Hastings that there’s an alternative to the stagnant NDP rule. There is a strong Green alternative dedicated to turning things around.
The opioid crisis has gotten significantly worse since I was last on the campaign trail in 2019. More people in B.C. died of an illicit drug overdose in the first eight months of 2020 than in all of 2019. COVID-19 has certainly exacerbated the situation, disrupting services designed to help people.
Meanwhile, border closures have led to even more toxic substances in street drugs. However, COVID-19 has also shown what our government can do in the face of a dire public-health crisis. It’s just a matter of prioritizing and taking action: since the pandemic began, overdose deaths in B.C. have far outpaced those lost to COVID-19.
The B.C. Greens will give the opioid crisis the focus it needs. We will scale up the safe supply to people who use drugs, developing strategies with physicians, communities, and users themselves. We will increase funding for harm-reduction services, including COVID-friendly measures to help people access them. And we will push the decriminalization of simple possession, in line with the recommendations from Dr. Bonnie Henry, which have gone unheeded for years by the NDP government.
On housing, for too many people in East Van, finding a home that fits their needs remains unaffordable. Over 40 percent of renters are paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent in B.C., and the inadequate stock of shelter-rate housing is leaving thousands of people without a home at all. That is detrimental to people’s health, well-being, and ability to plan for the future.
The B.C. Greens will introduce a means-tested grant for low- and moderate-income earners who are paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent. We will take a housing-first approach, seeking to expand the diverse types of housing available—supporting social housing, co-ops, and the “missing middle”, such as townhouses and triplexes. And we will close speculation-tax loopholes that allow foreign owners to push up the price of housing to fill their own pockets.
Finally, on the climate, the NDP talks a big game but its record is atrocious. They failed to stop the Trans-Mountain Pipeline in the courts. They failed to enact legislation protecting B.C.’s endangered species. The logging of old-growth forests has continued at the same pace as under the B.C. Liberals. They won’t cancel the Site C dam project despite spiralling construction costs and potentially unfixable geotechnical concerns. And the NDP continues to fund the fossil-fuel industry with our tax dollars to the tune of a billion dollars per year—outspending even the previous B.C. Liberal government. Continued expansion of liquefied natural gas and fracking will make it impossible for B.C. to meet our carbon-emission targets.
It is the most vulnerable in society who suffer first and hardest from climate and ecological breakdown. Just look at this summer’s forest-fire smog—it is those without the means to protect themselves, without air purifiers or even windows to shut, whose health suffers most.
The B.C. Greens understand that everything is connected: our public health, our prosperity, our communities; all of it is dependent on having a healthy planet. The time for inaction and half-measures is over. We need bold action and elected representatives with the political will to do what’s necessary to solve the multiple crises converging around us.
I’m tired of East Van being taken for granted. And I’m tired of broken promises. My community deserves better; it deserves answers, or at least the opportunity to ask questions. If any of my fellow candidates feel like facing each other in the public arena, I’ll be happy to join them.