Friday, October 27, 2006

Campbell drops money and bombshells on UBCM

VICTORIA - It's a lot more fun being premier once there's money to hand out.
Premier Gordon Campbell hit the stage to deliver the closing speech to the Union of BC Municipalities with a bag of goodies and a couple of major policy changes.
At least of one of those policies, which will make municipalities switch to public-private partnerships for all major projects, is likely to create some future sparks.
In the meantime all the good news had the 800 UBCM delegates - councillors and mayors - on their feet a few times.
There will be $20 million for Spirit Squares, which sound like one of those tasty treats served at community dinners, but in fact is a program to develop outdoor meeting places for B.C.'s 150th anniversary in 2008. The province will match municipal spending up to a maximum $500,000 for new or improved parks or meeting places.
Another $21 million will be available over three years for infrastructure projects in towns under 5,000. Instead of the usual 50-50 cost-sharing, the province will cover 80 per cent of the costs for projects worth up to $800,000. The program will be a big boost for communities that can't come up with the larger share of spending required under existing programs.
There's $10 million a year over four years for the cutely named LocalMotion Fund, which will cover half the costs for bike paths, trails and greenways.
All fine and dandy and much appreciated by the municipal reps.
But they got less hearty fare when it came to one of the major issues that dominated the convention, the big increase in homelessness and public poverty.
Campbell talked a lot about providing more affordable housing. He made a pitch for greater density - smaller lots, smaller houses, more tall buildings - as a way of keeping housing costs down and creating more livable communities. He urged councils to approve low-income or supported housing projects more quickly.
And he promised that the next budget would include some increase in the welfare shelter allowance - the maximum amount people on social assistance have to devote to housing. The allowances, like welfare rates generally, are ridiculously low, unchanged in 12 years except for Liberal cuts to some categories in 2002.
A parent with two children is allowed up to $555 a month for housing, an impossibility in much of the province. A single person is allowed $325, not even enough for a campsite in Kelowna. A pregnant woman gets $580 a month for food, housing and everything else.
But Campbell wouldn't say how much the rates would increase, or why nothing is being done to deal with the problem now.
Campbell also casually dropped a bombshell towards the end of his comments on homelessness. The effort to move the mentally ill and others out of institutions over the last 30 years has been "a failed experiment," he said. The people were supposed to receive support to let them live in the community. Instead they have been largely abandoned, adding to homelessness and other urban problems.
But Campbell couldn't say what solutions he had planned - whether health authorities, for example, which still continue to close homes for people with mental illness to save money, would get a budget increase. "We're going to have to find ways to do a much better job," was the best he could offer.
The other bombshell is a new requirement that will make it almost mandatory for municipalities to use public-private partnerships for any infrastructure project worth more than $20 million.
Campbell says it's cheaper and less risky to turn the projects over to a private company. But some municipalities - especially on sensitive projects like water systems - are likely to balk at provincial interference.
All in all, the speech was a success. But it's still unclear whether all those "Spirit Squares" are just going to be new places for the homeless, addicted and mentally ill to hang out.
Footnote: Campbell devoted a large portion of the speech to urban planning, urging smaller lots and houses, more high-density development and fewer rules that push up costs for developers and consumers. The benefits aren't just in reducing housing costs, he said, but in creating healthier communities where people can walk to work.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The other bombshell is a new requirement that will make it almost mandatory for municipalities to use public-private partnerships for any infrastructure project worth more than $20 million. Campbell says it's cheaper and less risky to turn the projects over to a private company."

Still waiting for the proof on that one... perhaps the new Fraser Valley hospital would be a good example - if it wasn't so far over budget!

turk said...

The other bombshell is a new requirement that will make it almost mandatory for municipalities

Cyber Life

wstander said...

In a parliamentary democracy, such plans are first discussed in legislatures, where the loyal oppositon has a chance to be heard. This one way communication, in the form of government annoucements, supported by media propoganda, especially if those announcemnts includes emphasis on the private sector as deliverer, is reminiscent of a form of government that will go nameless, but whose claim to fame was that it made the trains run on time.

Anonymous said...

Gosh Gordo would have discussed it in the house but he wouldn't allow the legislature to sit. He is such a con man. They are closing a place used by mental health folks down on Moss street in Vicotoria. It's small and everyone likes it, been there for years, but its got to go and real soon. To heck with the residents. Open and transparent government? Not this one. Thew same UBCM folks that were giving the government a hard time a few days ago are suddenly up on their feet when the word money came up. Show me a PPP that came on budget?

Anonymous said...

I was waiting for him to announce he was privatizing the towns it would be cheaper to rrun them then.

Anonymous said...

You guys are so blinded by leftist commie psyco-babble...

Every P3 has either been completed, or is on track to be on or under budget.

The Fraser Valley hospital mentioned above (which I assume is the Abbotsford Hospital) is not only under budget, but also ahead of schedule.


And, for the record... in the ten years of NDP "leadership", there were TWO fall sessions of the legislature.

In five years of Liberal rule, there's been FOUR.

Is basic math really that hard for you guys?

Stephen said...

Ynonymous, if you think one word in here has been communist, then you're not particularly bright.

Anonymous said...

Hey 4.31. So all the ppp's are just great. In your ear. Lots of thigns Gordo has dreamed up are failures. he tried to privatize what he coldnt sell. Private booze outlets have so many conditions only some die hard right winger would think they are great. The took a tourist place her nin Victoria called the Crystal gardens. Made up a board of Campbell supporters , shut d won, worked a leas that noboy has seen and lo and behold the place call BC Experience went broke in under three months. Oh of course we the tax payers opaid to repair the building structure. Everyon elost all their investments except of course the bank. The method used by Venoc to keep the numbers right is keep getting more money and revise the estimates upward. Gordo is a shill for companies wanting to make a bunch of bucks in a hurry. Next step is to reopen the mental hospitals. Hye guess who will be doing the upgrades? and if the folks are behind those walls, nobody willsee them on the streets. what a bunch of weird politicians

Dawn Steele said...

The Premier needs to explain--and urgently--what he means when he refers to moving people out of institutions as a failed "experiment." His description of de-institutionalization as an "experiment" is certain to cause unnecessary panic among former residents who suffered terrible abuse in the old institutions unless the Premier immediately clarifies that he has no intention of returning to those dark days by re-opening institutions.

Former residents of Woodlands, etc are currently fighting an appallingly insensitive restitution proposal that would require victims with severe mental illness and/or severe cognitive and communication challenges to relive and describe abuses in detail in order to qualify for compensation, so this is a very sensitive topic right now.

While it's an important and positive step forward for the Premier to acknowledge the failures, it is important that he also makes it clear that in searching for solutions he has no intention of taking a giant step backwards.

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Anonymous said...

"There will be $20 million for Spirit Squares, which sound like one of those tasty treats served at community dinners, but in fact is a program to develop outdoor meeting places for B.C.'s 150th anniversary in 2008. The province will match municipal spending up to a maximum $500,000 for new or improved parks or meeting places."

this is just great...omg


Something good for your eyes

garhane said...

There is a piece in the Sun on Nov. 30 that has these words" ...and the library union is blaming pressure from the city to cut publlic servicesd before the 2010 Olympics."

If this is true it hints at the ultimate Olympic story and how we are now all supposed to be sacrificing so the "Olympic family" of mostly Euorpean scam artists and local social climbers are planning to feast on our bones.