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Photo of Social Housing Coalition Flying Squad outside of Adrian Dix's Campaign office on May 3rd, 2013

Social housing flying squad report #14
Flying squad outside Adrian Dix’s Campaign Office
Friday, May 3rd, 2013

It takes courage to make change: Activists challenge BC NDP to end homelessness and poverty
By Ivan Drury

View more photos here

UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORY: On Friday May 3rd a group of 16 housing and welfare activists visited BC NDP leader Adrian Dix’s campaign office. The rally, co-organized by Raise the Rates and the Social Housing Coalition BC, called on the NDP to revise their election program to end the crises of homelessness and poverty in BC.

Bill Hopwood, organizer with Raise the Rates, said, “The NDP platform on inequality and welfare is like going to a doctor and getting diagnosed with cancer but only getting prescribed aspirin.” He spoke on the sidewalk outside the NDP office, cars going by on Kingsway interrupted him honking their support for the slogans on the protest banners.

“A person on disability in BC still gets $662 less a month than a person on disability in Alberta. The NDP platform does not promise to change that,” Hopwood said. “Dix promises to lift 8,000 kids out of poverty; which is great for those kids, but there are 100,000 more children still living in poverty.”

Dave Diewert, an activist with the Social Housing Coalition BC, explained how the NDP’s housing platform lets down people facing homelessness. “Partnering with the private sector is the problem, not the solution to the housing crisis. When you build for profit you don’t build the homes people need, you just build the homes people will buy,” Diewert said. “We need homes for more than 100,000 people facing homelessness. Not only will the NDP plan not build those homes, it could cause housing losses and more displacement.”

Photo of Social Housing Coalition Flying Squad inside Adrian Dix's Campaign office on May 3rd, 2013

Alexandra Henao, with the Agricultural Workers’ Alliance and the Social Housing Coalition, said that thousands of agricultural workers are dropped into this housing crisis every year and need support from the NDP. “Temporary migrant workers come for eight months and live isolated from other workers and communities. They pay rent for typically a two-bedroom place for 12 guys and work 6–7 days a week, 12-hours a day and they don’t have the right to speak out,” she said. “Migrant workers are isolated in farm-housing and invisible to peoples’ eyes and also to those who make decisions, we need to defend their right to be in this society and not at the mercy of the politicians.“

We were surprised that the only media that turned out for our action in front of Dix’s office was Fairchild TV. Their absence had us feeling we were there representing the people in BC no one wants to hear about. It was like we were making Liberals nervous because our rally is proof that their stories about the radical socialist NDP are lies. And like we were making the NDP nervous because we’re raising the issues their members support but their leaders won’t act on. We could really feel that if no one will speak for working and low-income people then we have to speak for ourselves.

Chanting, “tax the rich to house the poor! Social housing now!” the demonstrators marched into the NDP campaign office with their banners held aloft. Five NDP staffers and volunteers were in the office working on Dix’s campaign and the protesters directed their message to them, asking them to advocate to Dix for action.

Fraser Stuart, a Downtown Eastside resident on welfare, said, “A $20 increase in welfare is an insult, not a rate increase. It won’t do anything to help low-income people.” Pearly May, a member of the DTES Power of Women Group, said, “I am an Aboriginal woman and a single mom and I know what it is to be discriminated against when I need housing. The landlords just tell you there’s nothing available, everywhere you go. Indigenous people can’t afford to wait any longer for the housing that we need.”

Photo of Social Housing Coalition Flying Squad inside Adrian Dix's Campaign office on May 3rd, 2013

And Charlene, steering committee member of the Social Housing Coalition, said, “Our communities want good health, and to get it we need good housing and enough to live on. Unfortunately it does not look like the NDP is prepared to make a difference.”

The NDP staffers and volunteers responded hesitantly: One said, “we know there’s a problem and this doesn’t do much, but we’re standing behind our platform.” Another said, “Our program is a start, it’s better than nothing.” Their reasoning was similar to one NDP supporter who stopped to chat with the protesters outside. He said, “You guys are right that there’s a housing crisis and no one is taking it seriously. I understand why you’re frustrated. But be patient and trust that Adrian is a good guy and will help you when he gets in. The task now is to get him in.”

Herb Varley, Nuu’chah’nulth and Nisga’a member of the Social Housing Coalition, didn’t accept the wait-and-see approach. “The NDP says it will make change one step at a time but I don’t buy it. The Liberals didn’t hesitate to cut taxes for the rich or social programs for the poor, they did it in one foul swoop.“

Varley challenged the NDP to support people most in need, “It takes courage to make change and there’s no courage in the NDP platform.”
Bill Hopwood summed up, “Our final message to the NDP is that our campaign really begins on May 15. Our pressure to get the NDP to end homelessness and poverty in BC is just beginning.”


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