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Liberals say 'no' to homelessness and poverty challenge

Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman yesterday rejected the call to legislate time limits for reducing poverty and ending homelessness.

Last week 200 community groups asked British Columbia political parties to commit to reducing the provincial poverty rate by one-third within four years and to ending street homelessness within two years.

Asked if the Liberal government would be willing to set such limits, Coleman said, “No, because we have the most aggressive housing strategy in this country in actual fact.

“We've done more on that particular file than any jurisdiction in Canada and we're doing more. We have more going in the ground than anyone else in Canada and we're actually more aggressive than anyone else in Canada.”

B.C. has been a leader in making sure there is supportive housing for people with mental illnesses or addictions, he said. “We're just going to continue pounding.”

So, leaving aside for the moment the question of whether Coleman is correct, why not set a time limit? “We're committed to ending it, but they say, 'Give us a time frame.' You know what, it's just not possible because you don't know how many people with mental health and addictions are coming at you at any given time, so what you do is you do the job based on the population you have.”

NDP leader Carole James told The Tyee her party supports setting timelines to reduce poverty and end homelessness. “I think those are ambitious targets. I don't know if that's realistic, but I think you have to start somewhere.”

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' B.C. director, Seth Klein, said it is good that Coleman and the Liberals have gotten back into providing housing. They may yet see the wisdom, at least politically, in setting timelines, he said.

“He has time to see the light,” he said. “It strikes me saying 'yes' would be a good way to cover off your Achilles heel. This is where they're vulnerable.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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