The May 14 provincial election proved to be a disappointment to many in the DTES.
We are now saddled with four more years of a right-wing Christy Clark-led B.C. Liberal government dedicated to serving the interests of the rich and powerful.
How can we respond to this situation? We are not responsible for the election results.
But the outcome highlights the importance of continuing to organize at a grassroots level and build community-based movements of resistance to stop attacks on our lives and futures.
During the election campaign, supporters of Raise the Rates and the Social Housing Coalition – B.C. worked hard to raise the profile of some key demands of the diverse low-income community living in the DTES.
The rich and powerful funders and supporters of the B.C. Liberals were openly hostile and dismissive.
Many of us were disappointed (though not surprised) that the NDP leadership and campaign strategists were non-responsive to our demands and excluded any meaningful increase in welfare rates or a provincial social housing program for their platform.
However, many NDP supporters were more receptive to our ideas, and we felt that the defeat of the B.C. Liberals would open up space for change.
Unfortunately, the NDP ran a horrible campaign, ignoring issues of social justice. They made no promises to undo the great damage of 12 years of Liberal government. There were a few exceptions. NDP campaigns that took on real concerns and inspired enthusiasm were successful, like David Eby’s defeat of Christy Clark.
The B.C. Liberals, like the Harper Conservatives, make no secret of who their friends and their enemies are.
One of their main campaign themes was holding the line on government spending and keeping low taxes, especially for the very wealthy and corporations. They want to leave things to the market. This will only make the rich and powerful much richer and the low-income residents who are having trouble surviving even poorer.
During the Walk for Welfare Justice, we carried a torn social safety net. We desperately need to repair this net, as well as change the way services are provided and run, to avoid many people’s lives being destroyed.
Instead we may well face a new round of cutbacks intended to further gut public services that meet human needs.
Justice will be denied. At the same time we will be offered a nauseous dose of charity, supposedly progressive entrepreneurs and public-private partnerships. No doubt many strings will be attached, so that to get a few units of social housing will require a lot of new market condos.
At the same time, the B.C. Liberals want to throw the province wide open to rapid resource extraction and construction of pipelines. They want to create a new gold rush, suggesting that the proposed Liquid Natural Gas plants and other mega-developments will create wealth and jobs and fill government coffers (BC can become Alberta too).
This is based on pure market speculation, and totally ignores the many costs.
In the DTES many of us recognize that we live on unceded Coast Salish territories, and that the large majority of BC is unceded indigenous land. But the B.C. Liberals do not wish to take into account the rights of indigenous people, including their right to free, prior and informed consent about developments. Many of the proposed developments and pipelines in their traditional territories are opposed by indigenous groups because they have great safety risks and will cause widespread environment devastation, as well as accelerating global warming and catastrophic climate change.
Indigenous peoples and all those committed to stopping environmental destruction will continue to fight to stop these projects.
If such developments go through, they will cause increased migration and displacement of people and wildlife.
Some people were shocked or discouraged by the election. The only way to create the community and world we wish to live in is to organize, build movements of resistance, and find common cause with others who share our concerns.