Thursday, October 30, 2014

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan responds to Bill Tieleman's October 28 column on homelessness

NOTE from Bill Tieleman: Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan objected strongly to my October 28, 2014 columns in 24 Hours Vancouver and The Tyee on the lack of homeless shelters in his city, as well as problems in Surrey.  I appreciate his taking the time to respond and to put his position in writing - it is presented below unedited.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan - Burnaby Citizens Association photo
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan responds to Bill Tieleman's October 28 column on homelessness

By Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan

In a recent article, Bill Tieleman expressed his outrage over Surrey and Burnaby not taking up the cause of homeless shelters. Vision Vancouver has stepped into the wide gap left by provincial and federal governments and re-directed property tax dollars to social services, so why can't all the other cities? (Although he doesn't mention cities like Richmond or West Van)

Unfortunately, local government gets a meagre 8 cents out of every tax dollar paid by citizens and business. Ninety-two cents goes to federal and provincial coffers. 

So while Ottawa spends $35 billion dollars for new fighter planes and Victoria crows about the lowest corporate taxes on the continent, Tieleman insists that cities should either raise property taxes, or shift funds away from their own duties, to fix a problem that has been created by years of inaction by "senior" governments. 

Why is Tieleman letting them off the hook? After all, health and housing are clearly their job.

Even more simplistically, he thinks that overnight shelters solve the problem. Without permanent social housing, along with mental health and substance abuse treatment, shelters are a pathetic stop-gap that now perpetuates homelessness. It is the cheapest, but least effective solution.

It makes armchair liberals feel good, while people are shoved back out on the streets to be victimized at every turn. With nothing to transition to, it is an endless cycle requiring more and more shelters.

By the way, if Tieleman had taken the time to speak to me, he would have learned that Burnaby hosts the 100 bed Mental Health and Addictions centre at Willingdon, absorbing the myriad of police attendances that accompany such a facility. Unfortunately, even with a massive waiting list, it is about to close, because the province sold the land to balance its budget. We also host the youth treatment centre for BC.

Burnaby dedicates 20% of our density bonus funds from new development (millions of dollars) to non-profit housing and contributes city-owned space for non-profit organizations in our town centres. In our last attempt to support a transition shelter for women, advanced by Elizabeth Fry, the province killed the deal after public hearing and reimbursed the agency to the tune of $100,000 for their losses, claiming they did not have enough money to complete the project. 

Despite our outcries, nobody was interested. 

I am not going to criticize Vancouver for how it chooses to spend its taxes, but promising to end homelessness, when other orders of government have abandoned their responsibilities, is not a course our Council wants to follow. 

That does not mean we are insensitive to the needs of people who are hard to house because of mental illness or addictions. In fact, we will continue to demand meaningful assistance, the re-opening of permanent treatment facilities (like Riverview) and long term social housing. 

People struggling with mental health and addictions issues need an opportunity to live with dignity and integrate into our community. 

Tieleman should re-direct his outrage to the real villains in this tragic story.



Colleen Jordan said...

Let me add one of many specific examples of how the province has neglected to use available resources to support the homeless while trying to offload their role onto our city. In 2007, the youth detention centre, with space for 80+ persons was closed. The city immediately wrote to the minister requesting they consider using this facility for transition housing. For the last 7 years it has stayed empty and gathering dust. For a short time, it was proposed to be torn down and replaced by a jail. After the community rejected that idea, even then Lookout Society's Karen O'Shanncery was quoted as saying "Lookout is seeking the provinces'go ahead on that site".
Nothing happened, until, the government sold the property this year. And yet Coleman expects us to use our taxes to replace facilities he sells or tears down. That is not a partnership, that is makeing the city the scapegoat for failed provincial policy.

Anonymous said...

So one NDPer goes after another.

Corrigan off loads Burnaby's responsibility help onto the province. Doesn't take much initiative. That facility he says Burnaby "hosts" is on provincially owned land.

So on and on it goes.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Colleen Jordan that kept going on that the Port Mann Highway Improvement Project was going to enroach on Burnaby Lake? When the City wrote that foolish "City Manager's Report"

The project never did. Never even reach the powerline that exists between the freeway and Burnaby Lake.

It wouldn't hurt Burnaby to use some of the accumulated money in the reserve to take the initiative and do something about the homeless.

Rather than complain, take the initiative and do something. The NDP (and their affilate farm team the BCA) always seem to be complaining, never doing.

e.a.f. said...

Corrigan is quite correct. The federal and provincial governments have been "downloading" responsibilities for social services to any level they could. However, the municipal levels are the least able to provide the services. They don't have the ability to even carry a deficit.

It is about time the provincial and federal governments got back into the business of ensuring all citizens have decent shelter, medical care, etc. instead of ensuring their corporate contributors got the best tax break they could.

What we have now is a situation where senior levels of government have dumped the responsibility on municipal governments but not the authority necessary to deal with the issues.

Some of what the City of Vancouver does is through the health authority. So the money doesn't come directly out of the city budget.

For those who think all "lefties" have the same ideology, think again. There was a time in Canada when some Red Tories would have as much in common with a "leftie" when it came to social programs as they had differences about how to pay for it.

One Country, One level of social services.

Anonymous said...

You seem to want the federal and provincial goverment to take on everything. It's a bit of a false hope. The NDP in the 1990s didn't do that.

Red Tories are not "lefties" Those are NDPers and supporters of The Tyee.

Red Tories believe in a hand up not a hand out. Lefties believe in a hand out not a hand up.

DPL said...

It's refreshing to see a couple of guys with similar political ideas,overall,see a difference on a subject without throwing insults.

Anonymous said...

"It's refreshing to see a couple of guys with similar political ideas,overall,see a difference on a subject without throwing insults."

It's an unwritten rule within the NDP, one never criticises one's brother and sister members. It just isn't done.

If the NDP supporters would be more respectful to those they disagree with and not spew half truths or bended facts as one sees constantly in The Tyee and other left wing blogs, BC's political scene would be a much better place.

But if that's done, "DPL" here wouldn't have anything to write about.