Homeless in Vancouver

Low income families: don’t expect radical reforms from the NDP

“the Pulse” @ Vancouver Co-Op Radio, CRFO 100.5 FM, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter and rebroadcast over the Oct 30, 2020 edition of Cortes Currents.

Although Premier Horgan’s $10-a-day childcare pledge would be a game-changer for many, Simon Fraser University’s Stewart Prest said other important issues — renters rights, welfare rates, homelessness and drug laws — got sideswiped off the election campaign stage by COVID-19. The political scientist in Vancouver said people hopeful for radical reforms from the newly elected B.C. New Democrat majority government should probably brace for some disappointment.

Stewart Prest, a lecturer at Simon Fraser University, said many issues of vital importance for the province’s lowest-income residents got swept aside in the election campaign — which was dominated by concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic damages — so the new government is unlikely to make any radical or sweeping reforms on issues like drug prohibition, homelessness and housing affordability, welfare and disability rates, or renters’ rights.

Affordable Daycare

But he said one of the few big policy promises of Premier John Horgan’s campaign would make a big dent in many families’ pocketbooks, particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder: affordable daycare. If Horgan fulfils the promise to extend $10-a-day childcare to more families, Prest told The Pulse on CFRO, that itself would be a significant help to low-income families in the province struggling with their bills and ability to work.

On other issues such as expanding the safe supply of illicit drugs or expanding harm reduction programs, protecting renters from eviction, or effectively finding solutions to homelessness and tent cities, Prest warned voters not to expect anything dramatic.

The COVID emergency

The NDP has a strong mandate, but it is based on widespread voter support on how the Horgan government handled the COVID-19 emergency, not necessarily on its social policies. With Horgan reaching out across the political aisle immediately following the election, pledging to work with all parties in Victoria, it seems the party is re-assuring British Columbians their main aim may be a steady economic hand at the wheel of government through a crisis.

Meanwhile, advocates for tenants’ rights, drug decriminalization or legalization, and other issues say they will continue pushing the new government to go further and act more aggressively on issues vital to many vulnerable communities in Vancouver and the province.

Top photo credit: There’s a class of homeless in Vancouver who collect empty cans and bottles and cash them in rather than begging by Thomas Quine via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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