There has been a lot of talk recently about excessive polarization in today’s politics. Maybe it’s always been this way. Policy competition has always been a healthy dynamic within public life. The public square requires debate rooted in imagination, ideas, passion, tradition, private pain and tested evidence.
But today something does feel different. Political factions dislike each other — at least they appear to. No one seems willing to concede a point or find even a sliver of value or merit in the argument or the experience of the other. Positions are cemented. Answers are gospel.
This circumstance to my mind is the biggest reason for our lack of progress on the addictions, homelessness and public safety issues in our city.
The confluence of family and financial pandemic carnage, with an illegal drug supply that’s intentionally poisoned by criminal predators, plus a surging youth mental-health crisis have flooded our cities and communities across the country.
Here in Edmonton, our particular flavour of political polarization has worsened our situation.
All three orders of government are largely singing from different hymn books.
For 10 years now, Edmonton City Council has been touting a single solution. Its answer (which was also my answer during my time) is Permanent Supportive Housing. This is housing with built in health-care, addictions and social service supports. We’ve kicked and screamed, yelled and prodded, but for 10 years the answer from the provincial government has been no. A hard no. The word “permanent” is the issue – particularly the permanent operating expense. This approach is founded on the Housing First model, which posits that once people have housing, they might have a fighting chance of addressing underlying issues like addictions and mental illness. The current provincial government doesn’t buy it.