Businesses and residents of Chinatown gathered at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden last October 14 to listen to all the mayoral candidates in Vancouver tackle issues that matter to the Downtown Eastside. Present were Shauna Sylvester and Kennedy Stewart who are running independently, Fred Harding of Vancouver First, Ken Sim of NPA, Wai Young of Coalition Vancouver, and Hector Bremner of YES. Vision Vancouver did not field a candidate for this election.
All candidates were given two minutes, which included a Chinese translation through an interpreter, to present their platforms, as well as answer questions posted by the residents and businessmen.
One of the pressing questions that was asked was regarding the issue on safety and security of the businesses and the residents of Chinatown. Sylvester calls the problem in the Downtown area a crisis, and was caused by the fentanyl problem, and must be dealt with as a crisis. She said that it is important to follow the four pillars, from prevention to rehabilitation, in order to solve it.
Harding said he would begin to solve the problem by shutting down the stolen property sale market on Hastings street. He also said that he would like to find out how many Downtown Eastside organizations are getting public money and have them account for it, making sure they have positive results and that the money goes to the right places. Harding said the police can work effectively if they are given the tools they need.
The NPA team with Sim said that his team has priorities which includes providing police in uniforms in a round-the-clock schedule to ensure all public places are secure and safe. He also said that his team would allocate more resources for cleaning the streets.
Young’s concern was primarily with the seniors who were afraid to leave their homes on Hasting street, and this was due to the lack of leadership in city hall. She said she is a foster parent because she wanted to take immediate action for the problems that are happening in the city. She said she will restore mutual respect on the streets because there is a lawlessness on the streets right now.
Bremner says that Vancouver should look to cities who have recovered from these issues plaguing the city, such as Surrey and New Westminster, and find out how they were able to solve their problems. He says Gastown, only few meters from Chinatown, is experiencing a Renaissance, and is a model for what could happen to the city with an effective plan, where resources are used appropriately.
Independent candidate Stewart says that he will form an emergency task force which would be the opioid crisis first, then the challenges that businesses are facing. He said that all governments should have a hand at the problem, from the local to the provincial and federal, and renegotiate the Vancouver Agreement which expired in 2010. This would revitalize the area and solve its problems.
All mayoral hopefuls are eager to work with Chinatown businessmen and residents to ensure that the city’s historical district is better taken care of and that the area, notoriously known for crime, can be rehabilitated.