More on the Olympics and poverty in Vancouver

My office window looks out over Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, an area notorious for being Canada’s poorest postal code. Back when Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Olympics, we pointed out that the world’s media would be stationed just ten minutes walk away from truly abject poverty, and when the cameras started rolling, it may not be gorgeous mountain backdrops they would be shooting (especially in February when it rains most of the time). With the tag line, “we’ve invited the world, they’re coming, and the place is a mess”, we sought to spur the provincial government to action on fighting poverty and homelessness, if only because of the potential of massive global embarrassment.

The international media are already starting to take note (see this post). But to date our cries have not been met with much action. The Campbell government, in its second term, is much more centrist than its slash-and-burn predecessor. But on the poverty file, it is hard to notice much difference on the ground. The government has shifted from being outright punitive to the poor to merely being neglectful. The press of the Olympics has led to some modest measures, to be fair – ten SRO hotels were purchased by the province, for example – but there has been a gaping mismatch between the rhetoric and action. The biggest budget measure in February’s “housing budget” was an income tax cut three times the size of housing initiatives.

All of this in spite of the fact that BC posted a $4 billion surplus last year, a sum of money that could build 20,000 units of non-market housing. As Seth Klein and I pointed out last week in a pre-budget submission to the provincial Finance Committee, a big part of the problem has been that the government is taking options off the table by dramatically and systematically understating available surpluses – if we take the past four budgets together, the cumulative error between budget time and final results has been $12 billion. An MLA I talked to the other day mused that the government likes to see itself as a business and posting growing surpluses is like posting fatter profits.

For those interested in following the cut-and-thrust of how the BC government and the City of Vancouver are dealing with the cognitive dissonance of the Olympics and the Downtown Eastside, David Eby of the Pivot Legal Society authors the excellent Vancouver 2010 Olympics, displacement and homelessness blog. It is sobering stuff that does not make the mainstream news. Visit and you can also find out the story behind this graphic, which the Vancouver Organizing Committee has tried to ban (relating to this post by Arun Dubois):

One comment

  • I would not count on the Government to help, Their biggest downside is they are over controling already, as BC homeless are doubling every three years.

    Best Place on Earth to last place on earth , living on the streets. Hunreds of Thousands homeless are trespassers illegally 24/7 bases anywhere outside. An even worse choice is living in shelters, both being Fourth World health condition. No matter how you spin it nobody is better or worse than the next guy. In order for BC to be among the best places in the World, we must land a Constitution rights like few other countries. Being in the coldest /wettest combo country in the world enduring 6 months can make Canada a hell on earth place. BC doubles the Homeless population every three years and most of us are one paycheck from bankruptcy or homelessness . Imagine our bodies freezing 25% time faster due to water contacted. The greatest genocide in human world history were our North America Natives , yet they did have Teepees, why not our citzens. Other Countries give free land to every single citzen and that design blends diversity, freedom, sovereignty with unity. Not having 90% of us struggle over rent and mortage. We are not allowed to set up one tent where US allows tent cities in every major Metro. This can easily backfire like China’s 2008 Olympic issues into an unnaturally crisis and make our issue, Canada greatest national disgrace since the great depression.

    To be the Best Place on Earth you must declare the largest movement ever done in Canadian history. First, they must grant all citizen land, once land is given, it will prevent most people from over paying for homes for the rest of their natural lives. Also it will prevent most Canadian from dying with $30,000 in debt. Our home owners today, are like the old Teepees on average turnover homes every 7 years. Per ca-pita North America’s problem leaves the largest foot print on the face of the earth, It helps to reverse. It helps a lot if you buy a portable Natural.Adobe.Small.Home that Gives full services, healthy sustainable and very affordable rent starting $125 a moth rather tents in BC for more

    Thank you for your care.

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