Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Old Guard is Falling

It's not exactly surprising news that Campbell has called off a fall sitting of the Legislature. However it is yet another example of what a failure Gordon Campbell is as a leader, as a human being and how he continues to abuse democracy and the public's right to answers and accountability for decisions made by him and his party.

I think the BC public has a right to question Campbell about why he has chosen to fund $4 million to give pay raises to people who primarily didn't deserve the ones they received two years ago. This wasn't a misunderstanding, or a "miscommunication" or whatever tripe and false excuses Campbell wants to make. As CEO of BC, he is a dismal failure, a disgrace and his failings are a betrayal of the public and the citizens of this province.

I met some of the victims of Gordon Campbell last night at a forum on homelessness and housing. One was a woman who clearly had mental health and possibly addiction issues. She made some very good points about what it is like for her to be homeless, how she isn't even "lucky" enough to get housing in one of the Single Room Occupancy hotels (SRO's). She also mentioned that over a hundred people have gone missing from the Downtown Eastside after Pickton went to jail. As Pickton's trial and known victims demonstrated, most of the missing are Aboriginal women.

The other person I met was a 21 year old man named Chris (pseudonym used). He looked much younger than his age, but I'm sure he will surpass that soon. He told me he had been in foster care as a minor. He has Asperger's Syndrome (higher functioning Autism). He also clearly had other mental health issues.

Can you imagine my horror, my embarrassment and shame that he, this child-man, apologized for having a hard time staying connected with our conversation. You see, he has been homeless for four months now and yesterday he wasn't able to find any food anywhere, so he explained his ability to communicate and maintain focus in conversations decreased. He described being abused by foster parents and refused placement by MCFD when he was 18 years old, still a minor. He was articulate, bright and could have a future. If his government cared about him.

Chris is just one of thousands of children and youth who Gordon Campbell has failed. Who he and his government have victimized and abused. When Community Living BC refuses to provide services and the BC Liberal government doesn't fund them in the first place, this is where the Chris' of the world end up. And as he told me, people get raped on the street, they lose their belongings, they go from place to place, trying to find food and violence is a daily event. As he told me, on his way to the event he was punched in the stomache by a total stranger for no apparent reason.

The victims of homelessness aren't theoretical to me, they never have been. I've met too many of them and seen some people become homeless, heard the stories of how people went downhill faster than you can blink. The middle and upper classes and the educated wrap themselves in bubble wrap and think that protects them. I don't care who you are, who you think you are, or what walk of life you come from. Each and every one of us is one serious illness, one addiction (cocaine, gambling, shopping), one missed paycheque away from losing our housing, becoming homeless and on the street. I know this now personally. We are also all one step away from seeing one of our children, or siblings, or parents, or people we know find themselves in these circumstances.

I feel so ashamed at times like these to be a citizen of the "new" BC and Canada. We are surrounded by wealth, greed and gluttony, created at the expense of our weakest and most vulnerable citizens. Our middle class is not moving up, it is dropping down. Many of us will not weather the stock market storm that is about to hit like a tsunami, taking away what we thought would cushion us and what separated "us" from "them," the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the seniors who weren't lucky enough to get pensions, or not enough to live on.

Vancouver City councillor Tim Stevenson told an interesting story about a delegation of Chinese offocials who came to Vancouver and met with him at city hall. The spokesperson reported that the delegation was surprised to see so many homeless people on the streets and asked how many there were in Vancouver. Stevenson told him that a conservative estimate was about 3000 people in the city of Vancouver. This spokesperson, a wise fellow, expressed surprise and said that your city has only 3000 homeless people and your government can't do anything about that. Isn't the irony simply astonishing? China, not exactly a human rights world leader, nailed the failure of the government to do something about the most basic of human rights of it's citizens.

As Canadians, the neo-conservative ideology, public policy and agenda of the Harpers and Campbell's of the world has led us to a very dark place in our history. One in which when we look back will be something we will feel deeply ashamed of. It was the time when our government failed all of us, when it ripped gaping holes in the social safety net. When it jackhammered so there weren't just cracks, but crevasses that our citizens have been swallowed up in. We have lost the compassionate, caring values I remember being raised with. And I am damn sick of it. As are many.

There is change in the air, one need only look at Elizabeth May and the anger and outrage unleashed about her exclusion from the leaders debate in the federal election.
Harper and Layton realized the "error of their ways" and have changed their positions. Game on, May is going to wipe the floor with all of them. This was a colossal and costly mistake on the Conservative and NDP parts. There hasn't been a single time in memory that a federal election has sparked this much publicity and attention and engaged so many young and diverse citizens. I have no doubt, the publicity this has gotten the Green Party has brought in new supporters, members and donations. And, Dion, not to be outdone, very simply and succinctly calls it the way it is:

Speaking Wednesday, Dion reiterated his support for May to be allowed to participate and accused the two party leaders of "hiding themselves behind the consortium."

"She should be there, period," Dion said during a campaign appearance in Mississauga, Ont. "Not only are they not inclusive, but they don't have the courage to explain their positions."


Liberals cancel fall session of B.C. legislature
Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The B.C. Liberals have cancelled the fall sitting of the legislature, the government announced Wednesday.

The session had been scheduled to run from October 6 to November 27.

The Liberals held a session last fall, ratifying two treaties and enshrining into law specific targets for the reduction of greenhouse gasses in B.C.

The New Democratic Party has called on the government recently to hold a fall sitting to explain its decision to raise the maximum allowable salaries for public service executives.

The NDP has also called for a fall session to introduce new and tougher legal protections for farm workers.

Liberal house leader Mike de Jong has not yet been reached for comment.

NDP leader Carole James has announced a news conference at 12:30 today to respond.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls Premier Gordon Campbell a liar over BC carbon tax
It's not every day that the prime minister of Canada calls the premier of British Columbia a bare-faced liar.

End Homelessness, BC Needs Affordable Housing Now Petition

Finding Our Way Home: A Consultation on the Homelessness Crisis in BC

Homeless in Suburbia
Many fleeing Downtown Eastside. Why shelters outside of Vancouver are filling up.
By Monte Paulsen, Published: October 22, 2007.

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