By Bernie Florido, Civic Affairs Convenor
In recent times, the city of Vancouver has been grappling with the issue of homelessness and encampments in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighborhood. However, the cleanup process initiated by the Vancouver police and city staff has been a subject of controversy among advocates for the homeless. The fire and police chiefs and Mayor Ken Sim stated that the encampment had to be dismantled due to the fire danger and increased crime. While some believe that the cleanups were necessary to maintain public health and safety, others argue that the process simply displaced people without providing long-term solutions to their problems.
Dean Kurpjuweit, the president of the Union Gospel Mission, stated that the shelter had been at capacity for a few months and had to go over its limit recently to accommodate everyone. The forced shutdown of the encampment only added to the existing pressure and the burden on the staff. While the cleanup process is a necessary step to address the issue of homelessness and encampments, it is imperative that long-term solutions are put in place to provide permanent housing for those who are homeless.
BC is set to add six new electoral ridings, increasing the number of provincial constituencies from 87 to 93 ahead of the 2024 fixed election date. The changes to the electoral map are in response to rapid population growth, and are based on recent recommendations from the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission. The proposed increase includes four new electoral districts in the Lower Mainland, one on Vancouver Island, and another in Kelowna. The amendments to the Electoral Districts Act were introduced by the New Democrat government.
Richmond (Vancouver Airport)
Vancouver Airport has released a $40 million action plan aimed at preventing the chaos that ensued over the winter holidays from happening again. This plan includes adding new staff, improving training, better leveraging technology, increasing communication, and investing in additional equipment. The airport will also install new weather monitoring equipment, new gate protocols, more winter weather equipment, and increase de-icing fluid storage.
The city council of Surrey has approved a 12.5% property tax increase as part of a five-year budget plan to pay for policing services amid controversy over the transition from the RCMP to a municipal force. The council used the Growing Communities Fund to lower the tax increase, with the provincial fund providing $1bn in new grants to local governments across BC.
Delta, Tsawwassen, Musqueam, Richmond
Mayor George Harvie along with other officials wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier David Eby urging them to collaborate with local governments and First Nations to create a long-term strategy for dredging the lower Fraser River and its channels. They formed a working group to develop a pilot project and seek federal government support for a funding and management model. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority estimated that $2.5 million annually would keep watercraft navigation safe. The BC government gave a $2.1 million grant to Steveston Harbour Authority for dredging at Richmond harbor.