December 2022 Seniors Report

By Donna Webb

Long-Term Care and Assisted Living Directory Update

The Office of the Seniors Advocate has released an updated long-term care home directory which now also includes information on all publicly funded assisted living facilities in British Columbia. This online searchable directory is an excellent resource for people looking for current information on care homes.

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Connecting with Seniors in Rural Communities

The Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie continued engaging with seniors in rural communities throughout the province in October. Notably, she spoke at the Valemount Seniors Fair, a town hall in Squamish, and met with seniors on both Denman and Hornby Islands.

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Seniors Advocate Participates in Long-Term Care Survey

The Seniors Advocate recently joined the efforts of volunteer surveyors in downtown Vancouver by interviewing seniors living in long term care about their quality of life. Read more about a volunteer’s experience working with the Seniors Advocate, as well as her reflections on patient-centered care in residential care homes. OSA will be seeking volunteers until spring 2023. Find out more about volunteering on the project website.

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For more information, visit the Seniors Advocate web site at www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca.

December 2022 Housing and Safety Report

By Kerry Gibson

As Premier Eby, former Housing Minister, has been sworn into office, housing advocates appeal to his understanding of the housing crisis for a renewed push for mitigation and reform. Eby is urged to review what is occurring in New Zealand regarding changes to minimum zoning standards, noting that New Zealand enacted national reforms that established minimum zoning standards and legalized multifamily housing. They recommend that six-plexes be the minimum standard to be economically viable and sustainable.

Although the housing crisis is highlighted most frequently in an urban Vancouver context, and reflected in the unhoused population in the DTES, the crisis has affected communities across BC. In particular, communities with colleges and universities have been struggling to house students as well as dealing with community push-back on the creation of more student housing, citing NIMBY politics opposed to neighbourhood disruptions they fear young people will bring with such developments.

The Bank of Canada has reported that with increasing interest rates, housing prices will continue to fall through 2023, but not enough to create affordability. Canadian Real Estate Magazine reports that housing supply affordability is driven by a number of factors. With huge immigration numbers fuelling high demand for real estate, it is likely that prices will remain unaffordable for a large number of Canadians. The Bank of Canada is set to continue sustaining rising interest rates through 2023, which keeps mortgage rates higher even as prices start to come down. This will be exacerbated by increasing immigration targets throughout 2023 and 2024. Curbing immigration is not the answer, however. As labour shortages continue to mount, immigration is necessary to drive an economic return. Wages are not being increased in accordance with the increases in cost of living metrics, therefore not keeping up with the increase in inflation.

BC Housing, Kamloops, and Social Services are looking to establish an extreme weather response shelter for vulnerable people. As climate change continues to deliver atypical conditions, these shelters may require more prevalence and permanency than previously established. However, staffing concerns may delay operational readiness. All municipalities will need to continuously review their readiness plans in order to prevent loss of life in extreme conditions.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is following through on his campaign promise of 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health nurses by tabling a motion to allocate $6 million to the initiative. However, there is concern both within council and from community advocates that there are better and more cost-effective ways of accomplishing the end goal of supporting the public well-being. Hiring would be done by VPD and VCH. The discussion and vote is set for November 23rd.

December 2022 Civic Affairs Report

By Elizabeth Gautschi

Metro Vancouver

Two years ago, the spillway gate at the Cleveland Dam released a large volume of water into the Capilano River while it was undergoing maintenance. The Board of Metro Vancouver recognizes the impact that the accident has had on everyone involved and they are committed to ensuring this never happens again. As part of their commitment to making improvements to the system, a comprehensive review of the Cleveland Dam is being conducted and a number of new safety enhancements are being implemented. An interim public warning system has been installed that includes audible and visible alarms and additional public warning signs. Metro is now undertaking work to develop both a public education program and the long-term enhancements along the river.

Throughout summer 2022 – summer 2023 you can expect to see engineering teams completing on-site studies and hydraulic modeling of the Capilano River, updated project information signs and website content, and a third-party engineer consulting firm conducting onsite surveys to determine patterns of the public and river users along the Capilano River to inform the long-term public safety enhancements.

City of Delta

Metro Vancouver operates a series of permanent air quality monitoring stations throughout the Lower Fraser Valley that collect information on the level of pollutants in our air. View the current air quality data the Delta stations (North Delta and Tsawwassen) and other stations in the region, and view Metro Vancouver’s Caring for the Air Reports.

As a joint venture between Health Canada, Environment Canada and the BC Ministry of Environment, BC Air Quality is now active throughout BC. This resource may be used to find out what air quality is like in other communities, including any current air quality advisories in the province.

City of New Westminster

The City of New Westminster is committed to protecting, enhancing and managing the natural environment to provide a sustainable living environment for local residents. The City has established several programs and initiatives that help to improve the environment. Learn about the many ways that the City is showing its environmental commitment by going to the City’s website at newwestcity.ca where you can click on one of the various topic areas that include: energy emissions and climate change, water protection and conservation, integrated stormwater management plan, smart gardening and invasives, and many other topics.

City of North Vancouver

The City recognizes the value in balancing the recreational and educational aspects of its urban parks. Among the environmental initiatives being explored and integrated by the City are: pursuing creative solutions for storm water management that include designing and implementing community detention ponds that do not affect existing waterways and help to educate the public on its use; using bio-retention areas or rain gardens in private development sites; limiting the installation of new trails or facilities that do not benefit a sensitive habitat; erecting trailside barriers such as fences along heavy use trails to protect sensitive ravines and creeks; restoring riparian areas that have been negatively impacted by erosion or park use; implementing policies that balance the health and safety of residents with the protection of the environment; and managing invasive non-native plant species and integrating naturescaping principles to increase the habitat for wildlife and birds

City of Surrey

Surrey has over 800 parks and one park is uniquely adapting to climate change by making room for the river, the future Nicomekl Riverfront Park. Located on the south side of the Nicomekl River in South Surrey, this 3 kilometre linear park will extend from Elgin Rd to 40th Ave. Eighty acres in size, the future nature park will be 14 times larger than Crescent Beach Park. The park will have two large park spaces, the Hadden Mill and Oxbow zones (phase 1), located on either side of King George Boulevard. The park will combine environmental, cultural, art, heritage, recreation and social spaces. A nature-based design approach will protect flora, fauna, creeks and the park’s natural water system. Based on Surrey’s Coastal Flood Adaptation Strategy, the park will turn planning into action to address sea level rise and coastal flooding. This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.

City of Vancouver

The Women4Climate (W4C) program aims to advance bold, local climate action in alignment with Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan and Climate Change Adaption Strategy. This program contributes to the next generation of climate leaders through a mentorship program dedicated to women working in climate to create a healthier, greener, more resilient, and economically prosperous urban future. In 2019, Vancouver became the eighth city to launch a local C40 Women4Climate Mentorship Program. Each year, the program matches leaders from international and community businesses and organizations with emerging women leaders. Over the 10-month mentorship period, mentors share their knowledge, experiences, and support the mentees to develop their leadership skills while advancing their climate initiatives.  For more information go to Green Vancouver.

 

November 2022 Child and Family Report

By Sheila Pepper, Child and Family Convenor

Children and their families have continued to struggle with inflation and higher prices for almost all consumer goods they rely on every week: from housing, food, clothing, health and transportation basics, to education and community social connections. Over the summer and early fall, many of the BC advocacy organizations have been pushing the municipal and provincial authorities to follow up on their promises and expectations of improvements in these most important issues:

  • Bill 273, repeal of Section 43: Criminal Code defence of physical discipline of children. This has been a long time coming, as so many in previous generations considered this practice acceptable.
  • BC universal child care needs action, with special attention to new immigrant and refugee families. Language and social isolation contribute to these families’ difficulties in accessing all the help they need to return to work in their fields of expertise or some other field more easily accessed in Canada.
  • Several BC First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society initiatives include: Living Wage for Families, Fostering Change, and Making Ends Meet. For more information see their web site here.
  • The Child and Youth Support Network is advocating for extended support for all children and youth to age 21, from the present 18, when they age out of provincial support. There are programs for independent youth/ older teens who have to leave foster families. These supports include housing, education, work experience, and food. More information on all these supports will be coming shortly.

 

November 2022 Housing and Safety Report

By Kerry Gibson, Housing and Safety Convenor

Housing

On October 15th, 2022 Ken Sim was elected Mayor of Vancouver with primarily an ABC and OneCity slate. This may imply that the platforms of those dominating parties will reflect in upcoming developments regarding housing concerns in City Hall. The OneCity platform can be reviewed here and the ABC platform here . Neither platform is comprehensive, however both seem progressive-leaning.

CMHC has noted that housing development, particularly in the condominium sector, are down substantially (46%) as developers are hesitant to engage in projects that may not be as profitable as in the past. This may be problematic when considering Vancouver’s supply concerns, although this may correct as Ken Sim has a platform to execute on pre-existing relationships with the developers to see it through. Another hindrance, however, “There is insufficient labour capacity to address significant housing supply gaps in British Columbia,” the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported last week. The lack of skilled trades people has been problematic across all industries particularly through the pandemic. This may be an opportunity for contractors to be more inclusive in apprenticeship and hiring practices for women. Although the trades offer a secure and fairly stable economic opportunity for women, many women still report that male-dominated environments such as building sites are not welcoming and inclusive. A cultural shift would be welcomed to engage more women into trades positions, given the shortfall. Also, an assessment of immigration might be necessary to not necessarily prioritize those with post-graduate degrees but also those with qualified trades skills that are lacking locally. A shortage of tradespeople will result in an increase in labour costs, therefore an increase in development costs, which most likely will get incorporated into either rental or market pricing for the end consumer, which, without consideration or government intervention, will continue to decrease the opportunity for access to sustainable housing models.

Indigenous-led supportive housing is on the rise, as First Nations are striving for self-determination. For instance, in Terrace the Kitselas First Nation is building 40 new units, only 32 of which will be wheelchair accessible.  Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of housing, promised better housing for Indigenous communities in announcing on October 13 more than $25 million in combined federal and provincial money for the project. Indigenous communities are no longer trusting government contractors, who can develop sub-standard and insubstantial housing, instead taking the reins and directing feasibility studies, contract negotiations, and vetting processes, suppliers, and contractors in order to co-design quality structures. However, while the federal government might be supportive, local coalitions may not be. For instance, in Kitsilano, two local community groups have filed complaints regarding the Squamish Nation development which will surely impede the process of the build.

The BC NDP has decided to exclude Anjali Appadurai from the NDP leadership race because of electoral violations. This may be a blessing in disguise, as the former Minister of Housing David Eby, who is aware of housing concerns throughout the province, will maintain his position as the future leader of the NDP party. Whether his understanding and learnings of the concerns will play a part in his leadership has yet to be determined.

 

Safety

Given the surge in violent crime, all levels of government are responding to public outcry, both financially and through policy development. Given the municipal mayoral candidate who platformed 100 new police officers and 100 new supplemental social workers to work alongside them was elected in Vancouver, the “defund the police” movement was overruled (sidebar, the original “defund the police” movement was intended to achieve just that…more social workers involved in police de-escalation). All levels of government are now in consultation to determine funding and programs to mitigate violent crime.

 

November 2022 Civic Affairs Report

By Elizabeth Gautschi, Civic Affairs Convenor

Civic Elections in Metro Vancouver on October 15The results are in!

Voting for change seemed to bring about the downfall of many incumbent mayors. Thirty-seven mayors across BC lost their bids for re-election. But voter turnout continued to be low. On average across BC there was only a 33% voter turnout.

In Vancouver only 35% of eligible voters cast a ballot.

However, for those who did vote, the two main issues seemed to be housing availability and affordability as well as safety on the street. Other key issues in many Metro Vancouver municipalities were homelessness, mental health issues, drug overdose and crime. In Surrey there was also controversy over policing and the change from the RCMP to a city police force. Ten municipalities in Metro Vancouver have new mayors.

Vancouver – Ken Sim defeated incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart. Sim had 85,732 votes, well ahead of Stewart’s 49,593. Sim’s top priorities are to immediately requisition the hiring of 100 more police officers and 100 mental health nurses to improve public safety. He also wants to speed up permitting processes at city hall. However, there will not be much change in the direction of many projects approved by the previous mayor and council which included the Broadway plan, the citywide Vancouver plan and proposed SkyTrain extension to UBC, all of which were supported by three incumbent ABC candidates and by Sim in public statements. It is the first time a single Vancouver party (ABC) won a majority on council, school board and park board since Vision Vancouver did so in 2011. (Source: The Vancouver Sun)

In the other 20 Metro Vancouver communities, the results are:

Village of Anmore – Mayor John McEwen was re-elected

Village of Belcarra – Mayor Jamie Ross was re-elected

Bowen Island – Andrew Leonard is the new mayor

Burnaby – Mayor Mike Hurley was acclaimed as there were no contenders

Coquitlam – Mayor Richard Stewart was re-elected

Delta – Mayor George Harvie was re-elected

Langley (City) – Nathan Pachal defeated incumbent Val van den Broek

Langley (Township) – Eric Woodward is the new mayor

Lions Bay – Ken Berry defeated incumbent Ron McLaughlin by 18 votes

North Vancouver City – Linda Buchanan was re-elected

District of North Vancouver – incumbent Mike Little was narrowly re-elected

New Westminster– Patrick Johnstone is the new mayor

Maple Ridge – Dan Ruimy defeated incumbent Mike Morden

Pitt Meadows – Nicole MacDonald is the new mayor by acclamation

Port Coquitlam – Brad West is mayor again by acclamation

Port Moody – Meghan Lahti was elected as mayor; the current mayor did not seek re-election

Richmond – Incumbent Malcolm Brodie won a historic seventh term in office as the mayor

Surrey – Brenda Locke defeated incumbent Doug McCallum

West Vancouver – Mark Sager defeated incumbent Mary-Ann Booth

White Rock – Former councillor Megan Knight defeated incumbent Darryl Walker

Whatever changes take place in each of the communities in the next four years, all of the elected bodies will have to work together on big issues affecting Metro Vancouver and BC as a whole, whether that’s transit, housing affordability or the impacts of climate change.

What happened in your municipality on voting day?

Were you satisfied with the results?

Will the elected candidates fulfill their campaign promises?

What will you be watching for over the next four years?

How can we get more people out to vote?

 

November 2022 Seniors Report

By Donna Webb, Seniors Convenor

BC Seniors News

Report Release – BC Seniors: Falling Further Behind

In September, the Seniors Advocate released OSA’s latest report “BC Seniors: Falling Further Behind” on the income and affordability challenges of BC seniors. The report highlights the impact of rising costs on seniors who depend on government pensions and ranks BC as the lowest in its financial support for seniors compared to other provinces and territories.

Seniors Advocate Statement on the International Day of Older Persons 2022

October 1 was the International Day of Older Persons 2022 and it was an excellent opportunity to recognize the valuable contributions seniors make every day in communities throughout BC.

Meeting of the OSA Council of Advisors

The OSA Council of Advisors (COA) came together in-person last month for the first time in nearly three years. The Minister of Health and Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors’ Services and Long-Term Care joined to honour outgoing COA members Bill Routley, Diane Jeffries and Margaret Monro.

Seniors Advocate at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Convention

The Seniors Advocate hosted a workshop and panel discussion on the role of local government in supporting seniors at the 2022 UBCM Convention. The panel discussed innovative projects that exemplify ways that municipalities can leverage provincial investments for the benefit of seniors. She also held meetings with a number of municipal stakeholders on issues related to seniors.

Long-Term Care Volunteer Surveyors Share Their Experiences

Dedicated volunteers from diverse backgrounds are joining the survey team to listen to the experiences of older adults living in long-term care and learn about their quality of life. Some volunteer surveyors are fluent in other languages and invite residents to participate in the survey in their preferred language.

For more information, visit the Seniors Advocate web site at www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca.