KAMLOOPS, BC – “The 2016 BC government budget continues to fail the needs of British Columbians,” says Beat Klossner, Kamloops activist and member of the Communist Party of Canada. “There’s just no will from this government to serve the needs of community members who don’t already wield a lot of political and financial clout. This government keeps saying that they would like the private sector to step up and get involved in the construction of affordable housing, but, it’s just not happening on anywhere near the scale that’s required.”
Rates of homelessness in Canada have steadily increased since the federal Liberal government of the 1990s eliminated funding of social housing. The understanding was that the provinces would need to address the new shortfall and ensure that housing needs were met.
As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Canadian governments are expected to ensure that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being… including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood…” (Article 25, paragraph 1 of the Declaration.)
“It’s awfully embarrassing that, as a collectively wealthy society, we continue to support governments that completely ignore even the most basic tenets of governmental responsibilities to provide for their citizens,” says Peter Kerek, Organizer for the Kamloops Club of the CPC. “The dominant right-wing philosophy, that the private sector would come around to providing affordable housing, has been a complete failure. Our neo-liberal governments have either totally misunderstood the nature of capitalist exploitation, or intentionally misled the public in order to ensure there’s a massive reserve pool of desperate and destitute members of Canadian society, which ultimately helps keep wages down for the capitalist class.”
“You can see just how politicized social housing has become. BC governments have literally taken away the right to safe housing and made it a privilege,” says Klossner. “The current model, to have non-profits compete for an insufficient pool of funds, has muted their ability to adequately advocate for their constituents. How can any of them be critical of government policy without seriously risking the loss of project funding? This is the political nature of the relation between government and non-profits – one can’t bite the hand that feeds it and then still expect to be fed.”
Neo-liberal governments continue to argue that they can eliminate government bureaucracies by turning social services over to non-profit and private sectors. This policy shift resulted in a record number of non-profit organizations popping up, each of which has its own CEO and internal bureaucracy, thereby creating a much greater level of bureaucracy than existed before.
“Now we have layers upon layers of non-profit bureaucracy and redundant duplication of managerial staff infrastructure handcuffed by the current beggar-donor relation with government. Not only do we have more bureaucracy than before, but the new bureaucracy is not held to the same standards as the Public Service was, and, it’s just not getting the job done,” says Kerek. “Only governments can ensure people’s rights are being protected, and, clearly, this government continues to fail to enforce some very basic rights.”
Communities that provide affordable housing see a net fiscal and moral benefit as costs related to health and policing decrease, and community inclusion increases.
“You can see that the reason for taking away the right to safe housing is purely ideological because there’s plenty of evidence to show that providing housing actually saves government money,” says Kerek. “However, creating a large, vulnerable, underclass of the unemployed, underemployed, and working poor helps keep middle-income earners servile and less likely to demand better wages and working conditions. It also makes them more susceptible to accepting risky work and projects that are dangerous to their communities, like the AJAX mine proposal. It’s an ugly, ugly way to treat one’s constituents and is in clear violation of the international human rights commitments Canada made at the end of World War II.”
The Communist Party of Canada continues to demand the construction of one million housing units across Canada to help meet the immediate needs of the homeless.
“If we’re looking at infrastructure stimulus spending, which the new federal government has talked much about, then we contend that affordable housing should be among the first projects to construct,” says Kerek. “The need is there, there are short and long-term benefits to be had, and, of course, it’s the right thing to do.”