George Affleck: While the provincial and federal governments download, Vancouver crumbles
I live in Yaletown, which among its many charms affords me a front-row seat to the impacts of a disastrous set of provincial and federal policies. Unfortunately, everyone reading this in Metro Vancouver will know exactly what I am talking about. Homelessness, drug addiction, crime, and overdose deaths. These interwoven tragedies have multiple causes, but are spilling into our streets because the City of Vancouver cannot keep up with an ever-rising demand for social services that used to be provided by the provincial and federal governments.
The government jargon for this is “downloading.” How cute. It sounds as victimless as queuing up a Marvel movie or finally getting ahold of your favourite band’s latest album. But what that euphemism really means is “this is expensive and hard to do well, so we are going to make it the city’s problem.” Over the past several years, the province has “downloaded” a suite of social services to municipalities, among them affordable housing, addiction services, mental health support, health care, and outreach.
Simply — and obviously, to anyone with eyes to see — the city cannot handle this influx of demand. It lacks the capacity and expertise, but it also lacks the fiscal tools to raise the necessary funds without bankrupting its businesses and citizens. In its last budget, the City of Vancouver raised taxes by an astounding 11 per cent. But even that wasn’t enough. So, the solution has also been to divert funds from other areas of the city’s budget, such as basic infrastructure upgrades or the maintenance of parks. And still, it is not enough.