David Eby responds to Penticton: 'My door remains open'

Eby fires back at Penticton

Below is a response by B.C. Housing Minister and Attorney General David Eby to paid advertisements run by the City of Penticton in a number of Okanagan publications and the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper. The advertisement contains a letter from the city to the Premier, calling on him to get involved in Penticton's dispute with Eby over the downtown shelter.


The Times Colonist recently ran a paid advertisement from the Mayor of Penticton concerning the difficult and ongoing problem of homelessness in his community. Some parts of the advertisement were correct. Some were not.

But I’m not going to quibble.

The core of the issue is this: The Mayor of Penticton wants to close a fully occupied homeless shelter in Penticton. This would evict the 42 people who live in the shelter into the street, or a local park. There are no other shelter beds or homes available.

To achieve this goal, the Mayor is supporting legal action against the non-profit that runs the shelter. As a result, the people doing the work of sheltering and supporting the homeless in Penticton are now facing legal threats from the city. I talked to these workers. They’re kind and dedicated. Just the right people to help those in distress. They could easily give up, but they won’t. I’m grateful for that.

The Mayor’s advertisement ran in this Victoria-based newspaper. This is strange, because Victoria is one of the best models of provincial and municipal cooperation in British Columbia right now. Our governments have a signed a partnership agreement to address the homelessness crisis in city parks. We’re reaching a significant milestone this week as the city begins again enforcing park bylaws related to camping, and the final campers move inside to spaces made available by the province.

In Penticton’s newspaper, a story ran about the city fencing in Penticton’s well-known Gyro Park bandshell. The fence is intended to stop people from sleeping under the bandshell, among other undesirable activities. On the issue of fencing the bandshell to keep Penticton’s homeless out, the Mayor blamed BC Housing. He said: “I just hope BC Housing is paying attention to the mess they’re creating.”

Similar news stories run regularly in Penticton about homeless structures, tents, homelessness, drug use, poverty, and related bylaw enforcement. They’ve run for many years now. That’s because Penticton has a serious and interrelated homelessness, mental health and addiction problem.

I try to imagine how this long-term problem in Penticton will be improved if the Mayor manages to put another 42 people out into the street. I wonder how leaving 42 people with nowhere to go at night will make seniors in Penticton feel safer or address crime rates, which is what the advertisement said the Mayor wants.

By contrast, in Victoria a “tiny homes” development finishes construction this week. 30 people who currently live in a park will move in this Friday. These homes were built through a unique partnership between the city, a private developer, neighbours, donors, volunteers, and the provincial government. It’s an inspiring example of how partners can work together to lift up people in distress.

The tiny homes site is a pilot project. BC Housing has not joined in on a tiny homes project like this before. Everyone is hoping it will be successful, but there’s always the risk of problems. It is only the strength of partnership that allows us all to take this chance and try something new. Partnership makes it possible to respond quickly to local opportunities. Those 30 people would still be in a park next week if we didn’t have a strong partnership with Victoria. Instead they’ll be housed.

Penticton’s residents, housed and unhoused, deserve the benefits of partnership too. My door remains open.

Opinion: Work, money matters continuing to keep Canadians awake at night

Keeping Canadians awake

In late 2019, when Research Co. and Glacier Media originally reviewed the nightly habits of Canadians, we learned that many of us were not meeting the recommended guidelines about sleeping seven to nine hours each night. In addition, almost half of us found our heads spinning about dollars and cents late at night, making it harder to end our day.

More than a year has passed since that initial assessment. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on some of the indicators we track, while others are immovable. There may have been an assumption that, in a world where working from home has become the norm for many, we would be sleeping longer due to the absence of a weekday commute.

One of the situations that is different in 2021 revolves around the reasons for Canadians to lie awake at night. More than two in five respondents to our latest survey (43%) say worrying about financial matters made it harder for them to fall asleep at night over the past month. This means that money is still the main source of apprehension that takes away our ability to rest, although it is down six points when compared with 2019.

Conversely, the proportion of Canadians who have lost sleep worrying about health increased from 29% in 2019 to 36% this year. Concerns about health are more prevalent among women (40%) and residents of Atlantic Canada (39%) and Ontario (37%).

There is little fluctuation in the proportion of Canadians who report losing sleep over relationships and family (32%, unchanged) and work (24%, up one point). Canadians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to be having a tough time resting due to labour worries (42%) than those aged 35 to 54 (29%) and those aged 55 and over (7%).

There are fewer sleepless nights directly related to issues beyond our homes and workplaces, but the numbers are trending up. The proportion of Canadians who have had trouble falling asleep because of domestic politics and issues increased from 6% in 2019 to 10% in 2021.

The Canada-wide averages do little justice to the complexity of the problems that the country’s residents are grappling with every night. Albertans are the undisputed leaders in losing sleep over money (60%, with no other region reaching the 50% mark). Ontarians are more likely to be worrying about health before or after going to bed (45%, with no other region reaching the 50% mark). In British Columbia, we find similar provincewide numbers when it comes to concerns over finances (40%), health (35%) and relationships (34%).

There are some political nuances as well. Canadians who voted for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the 2019 federal election are more likely to be losing sleep over financial matters (49%) than those who cast ballots for the Liberal Party of Canada (41%) and the Conservative Party of Canada (38%).

Only one in four Canadians (24%) say they never have problems falling asleep at night – a proportion that jumps to 33% among those aged 55 and over. Just over a third of us (35%) face difficulties sleeping once or twice a week, and a larger proportion (41%) has a hard time three days a week or more.

As far as the time we spend resting every night, the numbers are a little more promising. Three in five Canadians (60%) acknowledge that they are sleeping fewer than seven hours on a typical weeknight or worknight, down four points since 2019. Half (49%, down two points) are not meeting the minimum requirement recommended by Health Canada on a typical weekend or non-workday.

In spite of these seemingly low numbers, a sizable proportion of Canadians consider themselves “very well rested” or “moderately well rested” when they wake up on weekday (70%) or on a weekend (75%).

Most Canadians may not be sleeping as much as they should, but this does not mean that a sizable majority of them are not ready to face a new day.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online survey conducted from May 1 to May 3, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Opinion: COVID data leak highlights B.C. public’s right to ‘no’

The public's right to 'no'

Last week I used the province’s freedom of information law to ask the B.C. Office of the Premier for any records to support, even justify its 30% budget increase this fiscal year.

I will a) fall off my chair, b) eat my hat, c) drop my jaw, d) buy my colleagues a steak dinner if I receive anything approaching the truth of the matter. I might as well be buying lottery tickets and burning them as the machine spits them out.

This is how governments of all stripes – New Democrat in our case provincially, Liberal in our case federally, Conservative in our case at times historically – treat the public right to know. It is more of a public right to no. As in no, you can’t have that.

There was thus zero surprise to learn late Thursday that details of the coronavirus presence in the province are concealed from release. Two leaked documents from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) carry important and timely information about COVID trends, local and neighbourhood “hotspots” and other data that would be so useful in this time of fatigue, frustration and fear.

Journalists, among others, have been asking for this data for more than a year. Other jurisdictions routinely provide it. Our province has argued, against most experts, that privacy is breached when such information is spread.

Some news reports about the leaked documents indicate the province has been “hesitant” to release the data. That’s untrue. Closer to the truth is that it has been “deliberate” in choking the supply of information.

We could take this personally as British Columbians. But in some respects, this government can’t help itself. It is part of any government’s DNA.

An early and persistent revelation from using the freedom of information laws for three decades is that there exists a life cycle of demanding openness while in political opposition, pledging open government upon election, and reverting to form upon exercising power.

There are elaborate systems involving bureaucrats and communications advisers to shield the information and to provide a concertedly positive view of any government’s operations. There are vastly more public relations officers in government than there are journalists covering government.

There are dozens of ways to dodge disclosure of important information – not creating a record in the first place is one of them, but so is using personal email for correspondence, texting and employing encrypted and inaccessible communications apps instead of using government channels that might be accessible by information laws. Those laws, of course, are tilted heavily in government’s favour; there are hundreds of exemptions to keep records safe from view. What could you expect when the people who create the laws – elected politicians – exempt their own activities largely from the laws?

The only differences among governments are the degrees of their false promises in assuming power and pious claims of transparency wielding it in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. No one within government seems to lose sleep over this, however – even if many of us would with such constant fibbing.

The question now for John Horgan’s government and Dr. Bonnie Henry’s health office is whether this leak can be turned into a stream. Late in the game, can the government suddenly trust the public with a fuller set of facts?

Clearly someone deserving of our thanks inside the BCCDC thinks it ought to tell us more, and if this government now wants to keep a lid on the details, presumably there will be another leak. It is hard to see now how the government can stay its miserly informational course.

In a public health emergency it is of course important not to fuel panic or violate personal privacy. But it is equally important not to fuel anger, cynicism and defiance when it is clear you are thwarting basic confidence in those who elect you. In that context there is no such thing as too much information for our own good.

The leak of information ought to spur this government to have faith we can handle the truth, particularly now that we can see what we have been denied all along. Today ought to turn that page.

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.?

Opinion: Warnings better than roadblocks when it comes to travel restrictions

Warnings over roadblocks

The publicity and warnings about the police enforcement of regional travel bans in B.C. will probably have a lot more impact than the actual checkpoints.

As officials have noted, most people are following the rules, so the enforcement of the new mandatory emergency program order is aimed at a minority that still hasn’t processed the recommendations, guidelines and advisories. Two weeks of consternation about the increased ­stringency has given them plenty of ­warning.

So the actual checkpoints are unlikely to turn into any kind of dragnet roundup of “non-essential travellers.”

And Friday’s description of how they will work suggests they’ll be set up with a light touch. Pulling over and interrogating large numbers of drivers on a major ­highways looked unlikely right from the start. It would have turned into something resembling this week’s pop-up AstraZeneca clinics. (Gridlock.)

As with CounterAttack, the risk of encountering a checkpoint will deter more people than the actual checks.

It will take up a lot of police resources, but they had to follow up the warning with some enforcement.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth filled in the details of what was announced last week. With the five health authorities on which the restriction is based now ­configured into three, the checkpoints will be few and far between. There will be none on Vancouver Island. B.C. Ferries staff inquire if a customer’s trip is ­essential and police attend only if required.

Farnworth put much emphasis on one location: Hope, near where the Trans Canada branches into the Coquihalla, the Fraser Canyon and the Hope-Princeton.

The ban on travel among three B.C. regions (Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, and north and east of Hope) is supposed to last until May 25, although that could depend on the case count.

There are 21 exemptions that describe essential travel. RCMP will be the only police staffing the checkpoints and they will do so on a restricted basis. They can ask just for ID and the reason for travel and can’t engage in arbitrary vehicle or street checks.

Drivers will not have to provide documentation of their ­reason for travel. If police decide a trip is ­non-essential, they will ask the driver to turn around. The fine only applies if there is non-compliance.

There will be advance warning on highways of the road checks. Farnworth pictured it as follows: “You start to see signs there is a road check up ahead, several kilometres before you actually get to the road check. You’ll be able to turn around if you realize ‘maybe my travel’s not that essential.’ ”

The B.C. Liberal Opposition said it puts police in the position of determining whether travel is essential and continues the confusion.

Liberal critic MLA Mike Morris said Premier John Horgan first blurted out the travel ban 11 days ago and “there’s still only confusion.” People travelling for ­medical reasons shouldn’t be stressed about convincing police of their reason, he said. He said it was ridiculous that the Alberta border remains open and that there will be no checkpoints for airline passengers.

Alberta’s case count is currently higher than B.C.’s, but the B.C. government has resisted clamping down on inter-provincial travel, for undisclosed legal reasons. There are advisories, warnings and pleas not to cross, but it’s not mandatory and there won’t be enforcement.

That same regime applies to all travel within health authorities.

Farnworth said only: “The issue of the border is a complicated one.”

Friday was the third announcement of the mandatory travel restrictions.

Premier John Horgan issued the first warning on April 19. He outlined the roadcheck enforcement of the new health order, said B.C. Ferries was going to stop carrying RVs and campers, and discussed how the hotel industry was being asked to stop bookings from out-of-region guests. (Cancelling and refusing hotel bookings is not covered in the actual emergency order; hosts are being asked to do it ­voluntarily.)

Farnworth filled in more details a week ago and again Friday.

Three separate warnings, highway signs saying they’re up ahead, and a year’s worth of discouraging any kind of travel. Anyone who gets caught at one of these checkpoints likely deserves it.

All the tough talk will accomplish at least as much as the checkpoints will. Plus it appeals to everyone observing the rules, which is a large part of why they’re in force.

Les Leyne is a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist

Canadians continue to find no shortage of disinformation, vitriol on social media, poll

Vitriol on social media

The last couple of years have not been particularly great for the dissemination of news in North America.

First, we went through extremely divisive political campaigns in the United States and Canada, where supporters of a particular candidate or party consistently put down all others.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated the delivery of “alternative facts” meant to confuse the public at a time when accuracy was – and still is – paramount.

When Research Co. and Glacier Media recently asked Canadians about their experiences using social media, all of the problems we originally identified in 2019 persist today. However, as was the case a couple of years ago, members of specific generations are finding it easier to discover, tune out and report toxicity.

In a country that prides itself on being inclusive and caring, the proportion of comments and posts that are downright insulting is troublesome. More than a quarter of Canadian social media users (27%) say they found racist content on their social media feed over the past year – a proportion that rises to 39% among those aged 18 to 34 and to 38% in British Columbia.

There have been many efforts on the part of social media companies to eradicate racism online – some laudable, others simply lip service. The fact is that social media users in British Columbia are more likely to be encountering racism in their feeds. Part of this may be related to a visceral reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, we learned that 24% of British Columbians of East Asian and South Asian descent endured someone directing racial slurs at them.

In the past 12 months, about one in five Canadian social media users also found comments that were offensive to people with disabilities (20%) or that they considered homophobic (19%). On both instances, the country’s youngest adults were more likely to be aware of this questionable content.

In the early stages, social media companies were able to self-regulate because they had a limited number of adopters. Now, most of them rely on a series of mechanisms that the users themselves have to understand in order to remove users who are breaking the rules.

There may still be an issue with Canadians not wanting to be “that person” and calling attention to what other people on Facebook or Twitter are doing. Only 23% of Canadian social media users say they reported someone for offensive content or comments.

As expected, Canadian social media users aged 18 to 34 are more likely to take action to deal with offensive posts (34%) than their counterparts aged 35 to 54 (21%) and aged 55 and over (13%). The country’s youngest adults grew up with these platforms and are willing to play a role in keeping them clean. And while 27% of Canadian social media users have deleted one of their own posts after giving it a second thought, the proportion rises to 38% for those aged 18 to 34.

With this context in hand, we see that almost two in five Canadian social media users (39%) have found links to stories on current affairs that were obviously false (sometimes referred to as “fake news”) on their feed. This is, regrettably, not much of a change from what we saw the last time we checked in September 2019 (41%).

In Ontario, the proportion of Canadian social media users who have been sent to fake news by their social media feed is the highest in the entire country at 47%. The fact that we were in field at a time when Canada’s most populous province was considering tighter restrictions to deal with the pandemic may be directly related to this eye-catching spike. British Columbians were not immune to recent pandemic-related invention, as a message purportedly claiming that “Bonny [sic] Henry” would implement a severe lockdown made the rounds last week.

As was the case in 2019, we continue to see people having a tough time pinpointing where messages are coming from. For 71% of Canadian social media users, it is difficult to discern which social media accounts are real and which ones are fake. The appetite for banning “anonymous” social media accounts is equally high, with 69% of respondents saying people should comment and post only if they use their real name and likeness.

Almost two-thirds of Canadian social media users (65%) would also like to bring an end to “creeping”, and want platforms to always allow users to see who has viewed their profiles, photos and posts. In addition, 60% of Canadian social media users believe politicians who have a social media account should not be able to block users from engaging with them. The mute button may work remarkably well on some platforms for both sides.

Sadly, not much has changed when it comes to the credibility and value of social media interactions. In spite of added attention to practices and standards, and in the middle of a pandemic, the amount of “fake news” is practically as high as it was in 2019, and Canadians continue to encounter offensive content.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from April 16 to April 18, 2021, among 845 adult social media users in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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