Eby and Singh duel over defunding police, climate, housing at Vancouver-Point Grey debate

Green candidate Devyani Singh and NDP incumbent David Eby faced off at a Zoom debate for Vancouver-Point Grey last night.

At the AMS and Graduate Student Society-hosted debate, candidates discussed climate issues, housing and food accessibility along with the current overdose crisis and defunding the police.

BC Liberal candidate Mark Bowen declined to participate due to other commitments.

Singh, a climate scientist, blasted Eby and the NDP for their handling of climate issues, while Eby, a lawyer turned MLA, showed his political experience as he defended the NDP’s actions throughout the debate.

‘I support increased police resources,’ Eby says

One of the most riveting moments of the debate came near the end when Eby refused to support defunding the police, unlike his opponent.

“I support increased police resources,” he said of his plan to increase police resources around anti-money laundering. Recognizing that as attorney general he can’t direct the police to ignore drug laws, Eby said that combating money laundering is the best legal route for fighting the overdose epidemic. The NDP has said that money laundering is tied to fentanyl and launched inquiries in February.

Eby added that he supports increasing mental health resources — and both candidates agreed that police should not be responsible for mental health and that there should be other social services in place.

['auto'] Sophie Galloway

Singh responded by affirming support to redirect police funding to social services, saying that policing should change to serve the people. “As a person of colour, I am privy to the disproportional impact it does have on marginalized communities,” she said, although adding that she can’t imagine how much worse it is for Indigenous and Black communities.

Earlier in the debate, Eby had acknowledged how his privilege could lead to gaps in his knowledge, as he illustrated with an anecdote about his time working as a lawyer in the Downtown Eastside.

“I learned really quickly. I had no idea what people needed, what their realities were. That my idea of help for people might make their realities significantly worse,” said Eby.

Candidates come home to climate and housing

Both candidates had key talking points and often brought the discussion back to them, making the majority of the debate focused on the climate and housing.

Singh slammed Eby over the Site C dam, a contentious environmental issue in this election, and Coastal GasLink pipeline construction, which drew the NDP criticism for its response to protests supporting Indigenous sovereignty. Singh often brought up Site C when given the chance.

Eby blamed the Site C project on the BC Liberals and said he wouldn’t support it because he didn’t like it — however, he acknowledged that it provided clean energy. Singh said the NDP didn’t do enough to stop its construction.

In response to criticism of the NDP’s relationship with Indigenous communities, Eby mentioned his party’s Indigenous members and projects supporting Indigenous peoples. “A lot of my work has been with Indigenous people who have lived off reserve and I have built relationships with friends on the Musqueam reserve,” he said.

Both candidates agreed that the government should consult Indigenous communities and help Indigenous communities become financially secure. Eby cited the NDP gaming fund as to how the NDP will continue to support Indigenous peoples. In October 2019, the NDP government began providing Indigenous peoples seven per cent of the BC Lottery Corporation’s income.

['auto'] Sophie Galloway

Another hot topic of the debate was affordability for students, especially around housing. Both candidates recognized that many UBC students face housing insecurity, with Singh speaking to her financial hardships as a graduate student at the university.

Again agreeing, both said their parties support investments for building housing around UBC. Eby said he would continue working with the AMS to protect students living in residence who aren’t covered under the BC Residential Tenancy Act. Singh said the local government should look into funding housing co-ops for students, especially those who live off campus — a 2020 AMS survey puts this number at around two thirds of UBC students.

Pipeline sparks tension

Eby did not hesitate to point out that the BC Liberal party has opposing views on many of these issues, mentioning on several occasions that Bowen was absent — something he said was “disappointing.”

Singh said that an energy revolution is coming. She argued for creating jobs in clean energy to make BC a leader in clean energy and to protect residents from being “left behind” in the revolution.

The housing crisis in Vancouver was of great importance to Eby, who said having good welfare infrastructure in place is the best way to move forward on many issues affecting housing security.

Again butting heads on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Singh criticized the NDP for not doing a provincial assessment of the project, to which Eby said the NDP had fought the project in court, albeit unsuccessfully.

“You had an opportunity to call for a BC-based environmental assessment, which the NDP totally ignored,” Singh said.

Eby responded: “Dr. Singh, I’ll respect your climate advice if you respect my legal advice.”

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