Pubdate: Thu, 03 Aug 2017
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell


I've got to say that in my years of covering city hall, I've never
seen Mayor Gregor Robertson cry.

He almost did Wednesday.

He shifted in his chair in council chambers, made one of those faces
people make before the tears roll, then paused mid-sentence.

"There's a loss of hope…"

The mayor was referring to the drug overdose crisis and the mounting
death toll. He had just heard from city staff that 216 people in
Vancouver this year have died of a suspected overdose.

He also heard how city staff and doctors and non-profit organizations
and volunteers and harm reduction advocacy groups were all in
overdrive to reduce the death toll.

"It's been just excruciating living through this, witnessing it and
seeing the devastation in the community," he said moments before he
got emotional. "And it's hard to believe it just keeps on going at the
pace that it has, despite all the incredible work."

I'll pause here to allow all the Robertson haters to guffaw, scream,
yell - whatever it is you do when you read something like this - and
accuse him of putting on an act, playing to the cameras, etc.

And you might as well continue your hater thing for Vision Vancouver
when I tell you that Coun. Andrea Reimer actually did cry in what was
an emotionally charged afternoon; she's been driven to tears a few
times this term when on the topics of overdose deaths and social
problems in this city.

For the record, I don't recall Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr or the
NPA trio of George Affleck, Elizabeth Ball and Melissa De Genova
requiring any Kleenex during the debate, although Affleck got kinda

More on this in a sec…

The minutes of the meeting won't capture the drama, only that council
unanimously approved 16 grants totalling $601,800 to nonprofits to
help mitigate the effects of the overdose crisis.

The money will go to "anti-stigma programs," expand outreach services
in the Aboriginal community, provide peer support to reach drug users
who use alone and offer services to areas of the city outside the
Downtown Eastside.

The chunk of cash is the remainder of the $3.5 million council
approved last December to respond to the opioid overdose crisis, with
$1.9 million of that used to deploy a three-person medic team of

So why so much drama if the vote was unanimous?

Well, there's this thing called politics.

Wednesday's meeting was essentially a continuation of a February
battle that Ball quite accurately described as juvenile.

I won't repeat what transpired back then but regular readers will
recall it was the same meeting in which De Genova wondered out loud
whether Reimer called her a murderer.

The frosty relationship between those two was on full display
Wednesday, with Reimer at one point saying to De Genova that "as much
as this feels like grade school, it's not."

The remark came after De Genova tattled on the mayor for saying
off-mic that a passionate/angry/loud Affleck should be ashamed of
himself for suggesting the one-week old NDP government could have
already put up some money to battle the crisis.

Affleck said this while arguing for an amendment tabled by De Genova,
who requested the mayor write a letter to the government demanding
cash to tackle the crisis.

I should note that Vision Coun. Raymond Louie called De Genova's
request "absolutely asinine" - a comment that sparked more arguing,
points of order and classy behaviour.

Louie later agreed, after a short recess called by Reimer to cool the
political temperature in the room, that a letter be sent to Premier
John Horgan and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy to
match the $601,800 for the grants. He did that on the condition the
NPA councillors vote for the grants.

At the root of this months-long back-and-forth is the NPA's belief
that the drug overdose crisis is a provincial and national issue that
should be directly addressed by senior governments - and that the more
Vancouver spends on tackling the crisis will simply let Horgan and
Trudeau off the hook.

This is the point in my piece where NPA haters can guffaw, scream,
yell - do whatever it is you do when you read something like this -
and accuse Affleck and company of being tone deaf to the carnage in
this city.

Watching all this fussing and fighting go down Wednesday were some of
the city's best minds on how to address the crisis, including Dr.
Patricia Daly, Dr. Mark Tyndall, the city's Mary Clare Zak, Aboriginal
leader Kevin Barlow, harm reduction activists such as Karen Ward and
representatives from nonprofits, who implored council to approve the
$601,800 in grants.

Which, after the better part of three hours, they did.

What was it like to be in the audience?

The mounting death toll tells me all the non-politicians in the room
wish they had spent their time more valuably, perhaps back on the
frontlines focused on saving a life or two.
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MAP posted-by: Matt