Campbell vows fast-track drug strategy

COPE mayoral hopeful outlines plan at major fund raiser

Karenn Krangle
Vancouver Sun

Monday, November 04, 2002

Mayoral candidate Larry Campbell vowed Sunday to begin implementing a controversial harm-reduction drug strategy on Nov. 17 -- the day after the civic election.

Denise Howard, Vancouver Sun

Larry Campbell gestures to the audience during speech to COPE supporters in Vancouver Sunday night

"Our city can be great," Campbell told about 600 loudly cheering supporters at the Coalition of Progressive Electors' $100-a-plate fund-raising dinner at the Hyatt Regency ballroom. "But our city won't be great unless we respect everyone in it -- until we take the concerns of everyone seriously. Until nobody in Vancouver is disposable.

"If we're fortunate enough to be elected on Nov. 16, then Nov. 17 is the first day if the four pillars."

In past years, party fund-raisers at big downtown hotels were the preserve of the conservative Non-Partisan Association, which receives generous donations and backing from influential business people and developers. Past campaigns -- even the well-funded ones for former mayor Mike Harcourt, who was supported by COPE but who ran as an independent -- saw the party's fund-raising dinners at places like the Greek community centre or large restaurants or halls.

This year, party organizers called the event COPE's "big show, apart from election night."

Campbell, who has said in his campaign he wants an inquiry into the 63 missing women from the Downtown Eastside, also promised to "get to the bottom of that tragedy."

This comment, along with several others, received enthusiastic applause from the crowd which also gave Campbell two standing ovations.

"We have a city bursting with frustrated potential, held back by the attitude that some people in this city just don't count, " he said. "I heard that attitude far too often when I was coroner. The drug crisis raged on for years while the NPA ignored it -- except to play on people's fears and prejudice for political gain.

"More than 50 women disappeared on their watch. And I tell you tonight, and I say to the friends and families of those women, we will get to the bottom of that tragedy."

Campbell, who worked as a coroner for about 20 years serving as chief coroner for Vancouver and B.C., said he often dealt with the fallout from the problems in the Downtown Eastside.

Campbell said he once had to sit down with a First Nations family in the morgue to tell them their 14-year-old daughter had died of a drug overdose.

"I tried to give them their privacy, and went behind the partition. But I could still hear them crying," he said. "It's never easy to tell parents they'll never hear their child's voice again. It's just as hard with a child from the west side who died in a motor vehicle incident."

There are no class lines in the morgue, he said.

"Everyone there is equal. But my morgue would have been a lot less full if there was less inequality outside as well."

Campbell said those issues persuaded him to get involved in solving some of the problems surrounding drug addiction and the Downtown Eastside.

"So I, along with hundreds of other people, worked with [outgoing Mayor] Philip Owen," he said. "He got it right with his four-pillar strategy: prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction.

"It was the embodiment of the idea that everyone in this city counts. It required vision, courage and political will."

But, he said, the Non-Partisan Association "threw out" Owen, and charged that NPA mayoral candidate Jennifer Clarke "believes the Downtown Eastside is a ghetto, to be taken over block by block."

"Well, friends, we're going to tell Jennifer Clarke and the NPA that the Downtown Eastside is no ghetto," he said. "It's a community -- alive and vibrant, and in desperate need of help."

Noting that the NPA says it supports the four pillars, Campbell added: "But you listen to their candidates, you realize they're running with a fifth pillar: move addiction services to Quesnel. Some support safe injections sites, some don't."

Supporters at the fund-raiser included prominent NDP members like Vancouver MLAs Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan, Vancouver East MP Libby Davies, former East Vancouver MP Margaret Mitchell and former NDP cabinet ministers Darlene Marzari, Bob Williams and Alex Macdonald. It also attracted people who run green businesses and a strong representation from the B.C. Teachers Federation.

Unusual guests included Gary Jackson of Royal Diamond Casinos who bought $2,000 worth of tickets and said he came to support Campbell. "He's an independent thinker, pragmatic, not bound down by dogma."

Woodward's developer Geoff Hughes and his wife Tanya were there.

Senior citizen John Barwick said he came from Kerrisdale to stand behind the opposition slate. "I'm pro-COPE now because of the bus lockout, authored by George Puil and his gang from the NPA. I never would have got interested except that I saw a small minority could completely ignore the needs of a quarter-million people."

Campbell's speech also touched on familiar topics like the need for an improved transit system, a school board that will fight provincial budget cuts to education, less red tape at city hall so people can get permits and licences faster and economic development.

"We understand that if you want economic prosperity, you have to have quality public services -- and that it works the other way, too," he said.

Noting the city has to balance the budget by law, Campbell pledged to involve the public in financial decision-making.

"First, we will safeguard the property endowment fund, and invest it to get the best possible returns for Vancouver, and we will make better use of our assets to improve our community and our environment for all our citizens," he said.

"Second, we will make every major financial decision publicly. We'll have thorough due diligence, and full opportunity for public review and comment.

"There will be no sweetheart deals for insiders."

He also said that, before adopting the city budget, his council will have a comprehensive consultation with every segment of the public.

"Your voice will be heard," he said.

Campbell also joked about the fact that opponent Clarke has called him a cowboy: "Actually, I am an ex-member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police which would make me a horseman and not a cowboy."

The event also included a silent auction and a live auction in which lunch for two cooked by Campbell went for $1,500; a day on the set of Da Vinci's Inquest (the TV show modelled after Campbell's work as a coroner) went for $1,000; and a weekend at Campbell's cabin on Galiano Island sold for $800.

Civic Election 2002

 Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun



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