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Promise to end homelessness remains unfulfilled in Vancouver

Last Updated Oct 18, 2018 at 11:48 am PDT

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver will soon have a new mayor, but will the current one’s legacy be a broken promise?

Ten years after Gregor Robertson swept into power with a vow to end homelessness by 2015, those numbers have climbed almost 600.

In 2008, fewer than 1,600 people were homeless compared to nearly 2,200 in this year’s count.

Since Robertson announced he’s not seeking re-election, critics — including those nicknaming him “Mayor Moonbeam” — have pointed out the key promise he made remains unfilled, but he’s repeatedly said support he needed from other levels of government didn’t materialize until recently.

Speaking at the opening of some temporary modular homes in September, Robertson remained hopeful.

“It will be crucial for the next mayor and council to continue the city leadership on this working with the province.”

While he may also be remembered as the mayor who hosted the 2010 Olympics and set the wheels in motion for Vancouver to become the world’s “greenest city,” key issues dogging Robertson — and the rest of council — have been housing affordability, as well as speculators driving real estate prices up in a city with an average household income of less than $94,000 and where the benchmark price for a detached home is at least $1.5 million.

His Vision Vancouver majority has taken some steps to address them by implementing an empty homes tax, building more dedicated social housing and clamping down on illegal short-term rentals.

During his three terms in office, Robertson has also laid witness to Vancouver as ground zero of a national opioid epidemic.

“I certainly hope — given we’re losing someone every day in Vancouver to the overdose crisis — the next mayor and council continue to go all out calling for provincial and federal leadership. It’s been a heroic effort to save thousands of lives here in B.C., but we’ve lost thousands of people, so it’s critical that the next mayor and council really step up and continue to put the pressure on and make sure we’re doing everything we can as a city.”

A leading independent candidate in the race to replace Robertson is former Burnaby New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, who recently announced plans to set up a Downtown Eastside Emergency Task Force.

“We have to do more to save people’s lives. We have to support those on the front line that are literally bringing people back from the dead. We have to get more involved to save our neighbours. Including initiating a safe and accessible supply of drugs for those at high risk, expanding safe consumption sites and introducing new fentanyl alert testing facilities.”

Former Conservative MP Wai Young is hoping to become Vancouver’s first female mayor by attacking another Robertson legacy — dedicated bike lanes in a city where only one per cent of commuters travel by bike.

Other prominent candidates include the Non-Partisan Association’s Ken Sim, independent Shauna Sylvester and Yes Vancouver’s Hector Bremner. There are 21 candidates for mayor.

Seventy-one people are vying for the 10 council seats.

There are 33 candidates in the race for seven spots on the Park Board.

Another 33 people are running for nine school trustee positions.

Listen live to NEWS 1130 on Saturday, Oct. 20 starting 7 p.m. for complete election coverage with #CityVote2018.