When backed into a corner, any politician with an instinct for self-preservation will tell you that finding a solution to homelessness and extreme poverty is one of their top priorities. Unfortunately when push comes to shove, reality takes over and appeasing the voting public claws its way back to the forefront of politics.
In municipal politics, the vanguard of the voting public is usually that small but vocal minority bent on reviving the glory days of the mid-50’s, which means that while politicians may hail housing-first strategies and long-term treatment as the way of the future, political pressure makes damn sure that these dreams never come to fruition.
Central Saanich is currently offering its own proof of this stalemate by cracking down on the unpermitted interim housing program operating at Woodwynn Farms. Pleading victim to the momentum of bureaucracy, Acting Mayor Cathie Ounstead was recently quoted saying “It’s not for us to determine whether it’s a good cause or not a good cause, we just need to regulate all our bylaws in a fair manner for all residents.”
In the midst of a whirlwind of community support from neighbours and others throughout the CRD, every attempt to place Woodwynn Farms on solid ground has been thwarted by regressive politicians. “They’re telling us we need institutional zoning,” explains Executive Director Richard LeBlanc, “but whenever we put in an application we’re turned down.” The province has also turned down the farm’s application to build more housing on its land located within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“I think it’s important to recognize that there are two levels of objections,” says LeBlanc, “There’s the stated objections, and then the underlying objections.”
Permits have been denied based on all manner of technicalities, but private statements abound from municipal politicians and other opponents condemning the farm and characterizing its guests as dangerous riffraff.
Situations like this one emphasize the amazing capacity of our region’s politicians for saying one thing while doing the opposite. The attitude of those blocking the development of Woodwynn Farm is characteristic of our political and social stance on homelessness — that it’s a problem to be solved somewhere else by someone else. With any luck, Central Saanich will choose to ignore the vocal minority in favour of a more compassionate reality. M