Premier-designate David Eby has wasted no time reaching out to the mayors of B.C.’s biggest cities, seeking partnerships to move quickly on the issues of crime, housing and homelessness.
One of his first calls was to Vancouver mayor-elect Ken Sim, whose public safety platform helped sweep the ABC Vancouver party into council.
“We had a pretty friendly, frank chat,” Sim said in an interview.
“I can tell you one thing, I’m super optimistic about the future working relationship with the premier. We do have a lot of common ground.”
Sim has promised to hire 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health nurses to help tackle street disorder and mental health emergencies with partnerships between police and medical experts. His administration is seeking help from the province, through Vancouver Coastal Health, to figure out the best operational structure for the nurses, which the city intends to fund.
“As soon as we get into that chamber, we are going to be pushing to hire 100 new police officers and 100 mental health nurses,” said Sim.
“So all the support that we can get from the province with respect to that, especially on the health care side would be great.”
Eby told journalists Wednesday he intends to “hit the ground running” on public safety, housing and addictions when he’s formally sworn into office in the coming few weeks. As part of that, he said he reached out to Sim, as well as the new mayors-elect of Surrey and Victoria.
Random assaults on city streets, violence, prolific offenders and homelessness played a major role in this month’s municipal elections. Opinion polls have shown the public is frustrated at the lack of action by the BC NDP government, now in its fifth year of power.
“The issues were housing, issues around public safety, homelessness, addiction and mental health issues in the streets,” said Eby.
“They are all new mayors, they are all excited and ready to go. And I’ll be a new premier as well, and the provincial government will be a good partner for them on these priorities.”
Eby has yet to release a detailed public safety plan. The only platform plank he made public was on housing, before his leadership rival was disqualified and he was acclaimed the BC NDP’s new leader.
However, it appears Eby’s housing proposals have broad support from Sim as well. Eby said he’ll pursue automatic upzoning of single-family lots in urban centres, provincewide approval of secondary suites, funding for housing partnerships, provincial land for projects, an anti-flipping tax and the preservation of rental buildings.
Sim said he has no hard feelings against the new premier, even though Eby endorsed his rival Kennedy Stewart in the mayoral race.
“It’s water off a duck's back,” he said. “I would have been surprised if he didn't endorse Kennedy Stewart, you know, they're both part of the NDP.”
Instead, after their chat, Sim said he thinks both will be able to move quickly in some key areas.
“We just have a goal of making Vancouver a better place, and we have a lot of alignment with Premier Eby, and I'm really looking forward to our future relationship,” he said.
“I think it's going to be great.”
Rob Shaw has spent more than 14 years covering B.C. politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for Glacier Media. He is the co-author of the national bestselling book A Matter of Confidence, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.