Friday, July 23, 2004


Underbelly of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside


Well after numerous nights of public hearings, Vancouver City Council today narrowly approved allowing Slots in Parks. In a 6to5 vote, city councilors and Mayor Campbell paved the way for a destination casino under the guise of horse racing at Hastings Park.

In City across City in Canada, horse racing has been dying. Many race courses have implemented slots as a way of generating income. It should be noted that none of these courses, to the best of my knowledge, operate in a Public Park.  Council believes that  Slots will improve the fortunes of Hastings Racecourse and this in turn will benefit citizens of Vancouver.

It appears to this blogger, after sitting through over 20 hours of hearings, that the desired opposite of what Council hopes for is true.  Study after Study has shown that Racecourses in the United States and a few in Canada,  initially enjoyed higher  purses, however later on Slots overtook Horse racing as the sport of chance and the Racecourses metamorphed into destination casinos.

This highly addictive form of  gambling, Slots contributes to ruined lives, destroyed families, drug and alcohol addictions and has  factored significantly in domestic violence. Sadly Vancouver citizenry are about to bear witness to its reverberating effects.

So with all these inherent problems why has council decided to embark on this route of expanded gaming.  Well for starters, the left leaning council led by Mayor Campbell has depleted the city's cash reserves and desperately needs income in order to correct their errant spending habits. This year alone, Council has dipped into their contingency reserve which is a rainy day fund of $5 million dollars. Yesterday CBC news reported that there is just over $200 thousand left in the fund. Mayor Campbell obviously has had a riot spending the public's cash.

What was really interesting about this issue is that most experts agree that Slots is a regressive tax on the poor. As are Lotteries and to a lesser degree charitable bingo. So why was this Council inclined to support Slots when they know its akin to inflicting harm on the poor. To be fair though, Cope city councilors, Tim Louis, Fred Bass, David Cadman, Anne Roberts and Ellen Woodsworth adamantly opposed Slots in Hastings Park. They should be congratulated for their steadfast opposition to Slots.

Puzzling though is that a few Cope councilors who have carved out a name for themselves by representing the  poor, especially in the Downtown Eastside, took an opposing view and voted in favor of Slots in Parks. Councilors Jim Green and Tim Stevenson enjoy their political careers as a result of the downtrodden believing in them and hence rewarding them with their votes. So its extremely perplexing  why these 2 progressives chose to inflict Slots in Hastings Park, especially more so since this neighborhood already has its fair share of homelessness, poverty and broken families. To understand Jim Green's big sell out, one has to be reminded that this councilor, a short time after being elected in 2002 said he could be bought but he didn't come cheap. Obviously not, as the developer  offered up $6.5 million a year in return to the City, one can assume as compensation for allowing him to put in a lucrative destination casino in a public park.

Sadly though, citizens of the city who witnessed this vote tonite, no doubt have come  to the realization that Democracy has a Price. Giving advantage to big business interests over the people will surely have repercussions. This travesty will be felt for years and decades to come. And it will come at a Price.

In closing, I want to thank all the citizens of Hastings Sunrise who valiantly fought the good fight. I especially want to acknowledge Claudia Ferris and Jim Hamm who took on key leadership roles and demonstrated what real leaders are made of.  These  2 shone and although they may be suffering over this setback, please remember your efforts Claudia and Jim were not in vain. A whole neighborhood got behind you, you left  a mark and I suspect voters of this City will reward you  in the future  for your  dedication, commitment  and love of your community and City.

Communities  listened to you, its too bad that Cope councilors Green, Stevenson, Louie and Mayor Campbell didn't.

But as Joe Hill said, don't mourn, organize! And then get even!!!

Jamie Lee Hamilton
(604) 781-3361