BC mayors ask political parties to address mental health, housing, transit and fiscal reform in campaign

Mayors enter election fray

The BC Urban Mayor's Caucus has injected itself into the provincial election campaign.

The mayors, representing the 13 largest cities in the province, held a news conference Wednesday outlining four priorities it would like each political party to include in their election platforms.

These include mental health, substance use and treatment, affordable housing, public transit and a new fiscal relationship.

Caucus co-chair Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria, said urban communities are facing unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and want to work with the next government in addressing these issues.

"In this election, we are asking all parties to commit working with leaders from urban B.C. communities to address the issues we face today, while we plan for the restored prosperity and growth that will eventually emerge as we recover from this pandemic," said Helps.

"Moreover, putting our cities on a strong path to recovery will also help to support smaller, neighbouring rural communities in B.C. as a whole."

The four priorities outlined Wednesday call for specific action to be taken.

On mental health, they ask for an immediate expansion of the availability of a full range of substance use and mental health treatment and recovery options for youth and adults, including appropriate facilities for individuals with complex needs.

They are asking for accelerated investments to affordable, supportive and social housing on a priority basis, and to ensure the rental housing system balances the security of tenure for renters with the needs of landlords.

On transit, they are asking for a complete fiscal recovery of projected long-term losses facing BC Transit, TransLink and BC Ferries once the Safe Restart funding ends in late 2020, and a redesigning of of the transit funding model that has relied heavily on transit fares and property taxes.

And, fiscally, the caucus is asking for municipal finance reform that will provide municipalities with a broader range of sustainable, predictable and reliable funding sources to address increasing financial pressures.

Presently, municipalities keep only about eight cents of every dollar collected.

Helps says the caucus, which only came together as a result of challenges faced by COVID-19, says they are not speaking up out of frustration, but rather because they see an opportunity.

"We are using this election call to highlight the challenges we are finding in our communities, whether it's mental health and addictions, or housing, or transit, or a need for new fiscal tools, we have come together out of a great sense of hope and optimism for what our cities can contribute to a provincial recovery and much beyond that," said Helps.

"We hope that all of these calls to action today end up in all of the party platforms."

The mayor's caucus includes Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, who also serves as co-chair, and Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian.

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