Pickton killings a sign of Vancouver's world-class woes

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Now that Robert Pickton has been sentenced to jail for life for murdering six women in the sex trade, it’s time for our business and political elites to revisit their priorities.

For as long as women have been going missing on the Downtown Eastside, various mayors, media personalities, and business leaders have had a fetish for turning Vancouver into a world-class city.

Big extravaganzas, often connected to sports or megaprojects, became more important than the welfare of our poorest citizens.

More than two decades ago, this world-class virus led to the creation of money-losing BC Place, which was built to host a Major League Baseball team.

Then there was Expo 86, which cemented the world-class ideology.

And several years ago, our exalted leaders went to great lengths to attract an NBA franchise. For them, this was also a sign of becoming a world-class city.

An even greater effort was devoted to bringing the Olympics to Vancouver–yet another world-class endeavour.

It didn’t faze our corporate and political elites that hosting the Games would impose monumental costs on taxpayers for cross-country skiing facilities, a speed-skating oval, and, most of all, security.

These elites, who can often be spotted at Vancouver Board of Trade luncheons, also concluded that we needed a world-class transit system.

So billions were spent on the Canada Line and the Millennium Line, even though there wasn’t the population density to provide the necessary ridership. To hell with riding the bus. That’s not world-class.

It was only natural for them to then ask why Vancouver didn’t have a world-class convention centre. Who cared if it would end up costing a billion bucks? So what if rising oil prices would inevitably make conventions a sunset industry.

As our elites showered billions on these megaprojects–coupled with massive tax cuts–we quickly became a world-class city in ways that they didn’t anticipate.

We started developing world-class food banks, and the highest child-poverty rate in the country. Much to our shame, we discovered that our slums could compete with the best in Rio de Janeiro or Mumbai.

Our provincial government took steps to ensure that we wouldn’t lose that leadership position.

Premier Gordon Campbell passed legislation to make B.C. the only jurisdiction in North America to prevent welfare recipients from making any extra money on the side through part-time work.

In world-class British Columbia, every penny of earnings would be deducted dollar for dollar from social-assistance cheques.

Our world-class welfare system also applied on Native reserves because the federal government, which has constitutional responsibility for First Nations, harmonized its rates with the province.

Single mothers with two children over three years old who were “expected to work” received $296 less per month than disabled parents in the same situation–whether or not they lived on reserves.

It was a great incentive for aboriginal people to come to Vancouver. That, of course, contributed to our world-class homelessness problem.

Once they settled here, they learned that our world-class provincial and federal governments had spurned a proposal for a new recreational and spiritual facility for Native youths in East Vancouver.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Campbell couldn’t find the money, despite piling up record budgetary surpluses, leaving aboriginal kids in the lurch.

Our world-class premier makes a big deal out of his new relationship with elected chiefs living on reserves.

However, his government has spent precious little money improving the lives of urban aboriginal people, even though they outnumber the population on reserves in this region by about 20 or 30 times.

Many years ago, our elites also decided that we needed a world-class airport.

In their eyes, the fastest way was to eliminate any political accountability.

Make the CEO answerable to a board of directors chosen by those same elites, and run it like a business.

We also separated ourselves from a pack of other provinces by making sure that a former RCMP superintendent, rather than a person with medical expertise, was put in charge of the coroners service.

That way, our police would know that if they killed anyone on the job, one of their former colleagues was in charge of the organization that would conduct an inquest.

Is it any coincidence that the RCMP’s world-class use of Tasers at the airport is now recognized across the planet?

We also demonstrated world-class police incompetence by ignoring the advice of Kim Rossmo, the Vancouver police department’s only officer who had earned a PhD studying serial killers.

During the 1990s, our world-class police board refused to post a reward for information leading to the arrest of any serial killer because the mayor of the day didn’t want to fund what he called a prostitute “location service”.

That probably put a smile on the face of our world-class serial killer, Robert Pickton.

Haven’t we had enough of being a world-class city?

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