Published: October 06, 2008 3:00 PM
Federal candidates running in Nanaimo’s ridings put their political differences aside Saturday and joined area residents in taking a stand against homelessness.
The Stand for Homes for All brought together dozens of concerned members of the community and politicians on Pearson Bridge downtown and in north Nanaimo opposite Woodgrove Mall, as they waved signs at passing traffic and showed support for Nanaimo’s homeless.
Similar events were held in communities throughout the province.
“The issue of homelessness and poverty in Canada should be paramount in this election and I’m seeing very little with regards to it,” said Gord Fuller, who organized the event.
“Poverty is an issue that affects all people and affects all parties that are running in the federal election.”
Considering the high poverty rates in B.C., Fuller said candidates should be doing more to address the issue.
“I don’t think it’s been given hardly any coverage. They mention the environment and the economy and that’s great, but without looking after the people, how are we going to look after the environment?”
Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP incumbent Jean Crowder said she would like the city to do more to encourage new rental developments rather than condominiums.
Rally participants said the issues go further than the homeless themselves and into the realms of affordable housing.
“This is an important piece of raising awareness,” Crowder said. “It has to happen on three levels of government. We have to work together on a housing strategy.”
Jake Etzkorn, a local musician, said he is upset about the lack of affordable housing in Nanaimo.
“We want some more action on that but we also want people to be more aware that it is a really big problem,” he said. “People are basically living either in unsuitable conditions or out on the streets in their cars.”
Etzkorn said the problem is more visible to residents of the downtown, like himself.
“It’s a bigger issue than a lot of people realize.”
Brian Scott, Liberal candidate for Nanaimo-Cowichan, said he is confident in his party’s 30/50 anti-poverty plan, which aims to reduce national poverty over a five year time span.
“Part of the program, which is really important to this riding, is to bring back the Kelowna accord,” he said. “It was a Liberal program, and we’re trying to bring it back and one of the components of that is housing for First Nations and Metis.”