Tim Louis: David Eby—a big heart and no fear when it comes to housing

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      In the past, I’ve been very critical of the provincial NDP with regard to housing, with one notable exception—NDP premier Dave Barrett’s 1972-75 administration.

      I still remember the day, while on a high school field trip to Victoria, I had the good fortune of running into Premier Barrett outside the legislature. In a very respectful manner, I urged him to do more to address the issue of affordable housing.

      He immediately replied, “You’ll be very happy when you see the news tomorrow.” The next day, Premier Barrett announced the creation of a brand-new provincial ministry of housing charged with encouraging affordable and co-op housing.

      The NDP, when it was in power in those days, was a whirlwind of positive change. But I digress.

      No disrespect to subsequent provincial NDP administrations—those of Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, Ujjal Dosanjh and our current one under John Horgan—but on the affordable housing front, these administrations have not even come close to the kind of initiatives brought in by Dave Barrett and his team.

      Not close, that is, until David Eby, who is also B.C.’s attorney general, was recently given the housing portfolio by Premier Horgan.

      Minister Eby has had a long track record working with housing activists even before he was elected as MLA in Vancouver–Point Grey, which is my constituency. Upon his appointment as B.C.’s minister responsible for housing, he literally hit the road running and, I must say, I am very impressed.

      In 2018, the NDP committed to spending $7 billion over 10 years to address housing affordability. Lately, Minister Eby has been spending tens of millions of dollars buying up old hotels, apartment buildings, and unused spaces to fast-track housing. This will make a world of difference. It would appear as though the days of simply addressing the housing crisis by providing overnight shelters may finally be coming to an end.

      Can you imagine a life of sleeping at night on a cot in a large dorm, then being put out onto the street at 7 a.m. every morning with nowhere to go for the entire day until the shelter opens again in the evening?

      Minister Eby is making changes in Victoria, Saanich, Penticton, and here in Vancouver, especially regarding Strathcona Park. Every one of the people living in the park will be offered a safe, clean, warm indoor space, if they want one. Those who want to remain living outside will not be forced indoors, but they won’t be able to stay in Strathcona Park after April 30.

      A lot of these people have health issues—both mental and physical—and require support services along with a roof over their heads. So hats off to Minister Eby for recognizing this and also committing to provide wraparound services like health care and even laundry facilities to all who need them.

      In Penticton, city council there recently voted unanimously to close a homeless shelter. Minister Eby had a multipronged response. He will exercise the power of paramountcy to override the council’s decision since it went against the province’s best interests. And he says he won’t hesitate to use the same power if he faces resistance elsewhere.

      He also said that if Penticton city council closed this much-needed shelter, he would send 1,000 sleeping bags and tents to those who would be forced out onto the streets.

      My MLA, David Eby, not only has a heart, but he’s obviously spunky and bold enough to go toe-to-toe with reactionary municipal councils, like Penticton’s, that dare to get in the way.

      Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]

      Latest daily total (Apr. 2, 2021): 416.97 ppm

      One year ago (Apr. 2, 2020): 415.50 ppm

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blog, which lists the daily carbon dioxide count in parts per million in the atmosphere at the end of every post. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.