Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson blasted the NDP Wednesday for “warehousing” people without homes in former hotels in Victoria and others cities during COVID-19 pandemic, but he provided no details of how a Liberal government would do things differently.
After delivering a campaign speech at the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ convention, Wilkinson visited Victoria businesses harmed by their proximity to temporary homeless shelters bought by the NDP government.
In some cases, the businesses have been unable to reopen following the COVID-19 outbreak or have seen a rise in thefts, vandalism, trespassing and open drug use near their stores.
“It’s turned into a mess,” Wilkinson said. “What the NDP have done is paid far more than the market price for old motels, moved people into them and then basically abandoned them.”
But when asked how a Liberal government would handle the same issues, Wilkinson would say only that it will take a multi-government approach to treat the root causes of homelessness, drug addiction and mental-health issues.
“It’s not working right now,” he said. “We can see that all over British Columbia.
“There’s a better way to deal with homelessness, and we’re going to have a plan to do that.”
Wilkinson’s message fell flat with at least one of the business owners he visited. Clif Leir, who owns Paul’s Diner by Fol Epi adjacent to a temporary homeless shelter at the former Paul’s Motor Inn, said he felt the Liberal leader was simply looking to throw mud at the NDP rather than find solutions.
“I feel a lot of the situation that’s going on now is a result of cuts that the Liberals made when they were in power,” he said.
At the same time, Leir is unhappy with the NDP as well, arguing that they should be dealing with the issues instead of trying to win an election.
Leir said B.C. Housing’s decision to purchase Paul’s Motor Inn for temporary housing prevented his diner from reopening after the COVID-19 shutdown, throwing about 20 people out of work.
“Having a homeless shelter there, unfortunately, is a big deterrent for a family restaurant and we felt that if we did go ahead and open there, it was potentially just going to bleed money and bring down the rest of our businesses.”
Now, he says, B.C. Housing is offering to pay him less than half of what he invested in renovations to the diner.
Leir said it’s time all parties stopped slinging mud and started looking for answers. “Everyone’s just pointing the finger and there’s not many people actually stepping up with solutions that consider all involved,” he said.
Love Dodd, manager of Dodd’s Furniture, agreed that governments need to find a new approach, because putting people in hotels isn’t working. Businesses that were already struggling now face additional costs to protect their properties, themselves and their customers, he said.
“Every single person out there has different issues, be it a drug habit or alcohol or mental illness. They all need to be treated separately and differently, and we need to go out there and hire and train individuals who can help these people.
“Just putting them all under one roof and thinking that’s going to solve the problem … it’s not going to solve the problem. It’s going to get bigger.”
B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan told reporters that he will continue to work with the mayors of Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna and other cities dealing with an increase in homelessness due to the pandemic.
“But these are not short-term fixes,” he said.
“I think British Columbians understand that, wherever they may live.
“We have serious issues ahead of us. It’s not a 12-month proposition. It’s a four-year proposition, and that’s why I’ve called an election so we can settle the politics [and] put them behind us.”