Over 800 enthusiastic delegates from MVA’s 57 member organizations, joined by dozens of invited community leaders, politicians, guests and observers packed the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on April 4, 2017.
They were all there to call on John Horgan, Leader of the New Democratic Party of BC, and Andrew Weaver, Leader of the Green Party of BC, to support MVA’s provincial agenda and work with us to address the affordable housing crisis, access to transit, income inequality and healthcare in British Columbia.
- A timeline of the nights events from storify.
- Lots of photos here at our Facebook page.
- Download the assembly program here.
Earlier that day, we received word that Christy Clark, Leader of the BC Liberal Party, was unavailable.
In the months and days leading up to our assembly, leaders from MVA’s faith, community and aboriginal organizations had contacted Ms. Clark’s office directly to encourage her to participate, making it clear that MVA is a non-partisan organization with a diversity of member organizations and that our model is to treat all political leaders respectfully. Unfortunately, we were told that Ms. Clark could not make the assembly work with her schedule.
Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver heard our research and testimony from MVA members on our four priority issues, which are available here.
AJ and Barbara Brown spoke of the difficulties of living on federal and provincial disability benefits, how the provincial claw-back of CPP disability benefits affects British Columbians, and how this traps people in poverty, unable to support their basic needs.
Stefan Avlijas spoke of the challenges he faced finding affordable housing in Vancouver, how he was faced with an illegal rent increase, and how strengthening the Residential Tenancy Act to ensure bad landlords cannot increase rents between tenancies would ensure British Columbian renters have the housing security they need.
Bet Tuason, a member of the HandDART Riders Alliance and dialysis patient, spoke very powerfully of the challenges he faces accessing HandyDART services and how his treatment can take up to 13 hours per day, when the time spent in transit is factored in. Patients like Bet deserve consistent, accessible, affordable and stable transportation.
Colleen Fuller spoke about the lifesaving role REACH Community Health Centre plays in her life and how the community health model provides badly needed culturally appropriate health services to British Columbians.
The politicians were then asked to commit to MVA’s proposals.
Both Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver committed to work with MVA and other advocates and organizations to develop and implement a legislated, comprehensive poverty reduction plan for BC. Both Leaders also committed to eliminating the provincial claw-back of the CCP disability benefits.
Mr. Horgan committed to strengthening the Residential Tenancy Act to tie rent to the unit, instead of to the tenant, so that landlords cannot increase rents between tenancies, as well as eliminate the parts of the Act that currently allow fixed lease contracts, renovictions, and unfair rent increases because of geography. Mr. Weaver was unable to make that commitment on behalf of his party.
Mr. Horgan committed to providing funding through a special grant to increase HandyDART service hours by 5% per year for the next four years for all TransLink and BC Transit HandyDART services. Mr. Weaver noted that HandyDART service needs to be improved but was unable to commit to a specific percentage amount.
Both Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver committed to establishing a primary health care partnership table, including representatives from Aboriginal and multicultural communities, to identify strategies to reform BC’s primary health care system and to work with the Metro Vancouver Alliance and the BC Association of Community Health Centres to develop an annualized global funding model for Community Health Centres in British Columbia.
Metro Vancouver Alliance committed to working with the provincial government, community partners, and advocates to provide research and build popular support for all these initiatives.
Regardless of who wins the upcoming provincial election, these commitments made by both MVA and the provincial party leaders will make our province fairer, more equal and will reduce poverty in British Columbia.
None of this would have been possible without MVA supporters, Research/Action Team members, MVA volunteers and leaders, and the hundreds of MVA members who participated in our listening campaigns.
"Organizing tonight’s assembly was a big job, shared by many hands.” Akeena Legall, an MVA member from CUPE, said as she closed the assembly, “We came here to talk about the provincial election, but MVA is not a one election or a one issue organization. Our work is ongoing. There will be lots to do during and after the election. Let’s get to work!”