B.C.'s Campbell asked about 2010 troubles
BEIJING - B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell vows the Vancouver the world sees during the 2010 Games won't be plagued by homelessness, addiction and poverty.
He says investments in housing and health are helping address the root cause of the Downtown Eastside, one of Canada's biggest ghettos, and it will look different by 2010.
"I don't see this always as an area of problems," Campbell told a press conference on Tuesday. "I see this as an area of possibilities, where we think about historic neighbourhoods and what they provided to the city, what they provided to the province.
"And if we look at those things, and work on them as an integrated way, I think you will see significant improvements by 2010."
A new mental health and addictions centre is being built, a major mixed-use development project is expected to inject fresh life into the area and more than a dozen single occupancy hotels have been purchased, Campbell said.
He added that none of those projects were underway because of the Games but because they needed to be done.
But an estimate from one Vancouver advocacy group suggests over 1,300 beds in single-room occupancy hotels have vanished since the city won the Olympic bid in 2003.
The world's media are already on top of some of the other problems facing the Games.
The first question at the conference was from a reporter who identified himself as being with China's state-run English newspaper. He asked Campbell about the recent closure of the Sea-to-Sky highway and whether he's afraid the protesters from the notorious Anti-Poverty Committee will attempt to block it during the Games.
Campbell reiterated earlier statements about contingency plans being in place for the highway, which was shuttered for five days after a rock slide earlier this month.
He also said people would be free to protest, legally, during the Games.
An international media centre is also being built in the heart of Vancouver's downtown, and Campbell promised a carbon-neutral facility that will be the first such space in Olympic history to be "green-certified."
More than 3,000 reporters are expected to be in both Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., to cover just the area itself and not the Olympics, Campbell said.
"There's no better way to promote all our province has to offer than through the eyes of journalists drawn here by the Games," he said.
But the premier said their eyes won't be drawn to the same scene local media see every day, the drug addicts, destitute and homeless haunting the corners of the Downtown Eastside.
"I think we're going to be able to better than that," he said.
Rumours abound in the Downtown Eastside that come Games time, the poor will be jailed or bused out of town.
Campbell said in part, the key to revitalizing the neighbourhood also lies in increasing its confidence as a community.
"I think the initiatives we've taken with the city of Vancouver to help people in Chinatown and Gastown, Japantown start to celebrate those neighbourhoods, the history of those neighbourhoods . . . helps to change the attitudes of the neighbourhoods as well."