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Premier Eby lays out ambitious public safety plan for B.C. But can he deliver?


Some 48 hours after he took his oath of office, B.C. Premier David Eby held a rare weekend press conference with a clear strategy: to convey to the public they should see him as being on top of the biggest issues of the day, and willing to work overtime to address them.

Flanked by three cabinet ministers, four of the top police officials in the region, community leaders and the Vancouver mayor, Eby drew dozens of journalists to one of the highest points of the city to announce an ambitious plan to deal with the province’s public safety issues with the city literally at his back.

"I told you I’d hit the ground running," Eby told reporters in a phrase perfect for sound bytes, as he faced tough questions about the “Safer Communities Action Plan”, which would be overseen and spear-headed by the province.

"Coordination between prosecutors, police, probation officers, non-profit service providers, healthcare workers -- this is what's going to provide safer communities,” he said summarizing the plan, which was announced in a 5,00-word-long press release.

The key components of the strategy, Eby said, are focussing on repeat offenders, expanding counselling and mental health response teams, and laying out a smoother route from emergency crisis response to long-term treatment.

Howver, Eby was vague on how he’d determine if the plan is working.

“There are going to be some visible differences we're looking for,” he said. “We're going to go head-on at the encampments people are seeing in their communities, the issue of visible mental health and addiction distress in their communities.”

Specific programs, from police-nurse teams to transition programs for people finishing jail terms, are subject to their own assessment and accountability, the premier pointed out, and he’s looking for changes that make British Columbians feel safer in their communities while supporting those struggling to find help with mental health and addictions, in particular.

CTV News pointed out it’s not just Vancouver or B.C.’s other cities facing these issues, which have been observed in almost all major North American jurisdictions.

"These aren't problems we're going to solve overnight, but they are problems where we're going to show progress -- where we have to show progress.” Eby replied when asked why he thought his approach would succeed where others have failed.

“British Columbians expect it.”

It’s true that citizens have heard plans and pledges for coordination and better efficiency and a fresh approach before, with little to show for such announcements. More people are squeezed out of precarious living situations by the soaring cost of living, toxic drug deaths are showing no signs of slowing down, and even as crime statistics don’t show a marked increase – some argue that a rising number of assaults and break-ins are going unreported because people have lost faith that reporting them will make a difference.

Eby acknowledges he’s got two years of runway to try and prove this strategy is different from those that have come before, saying he’s got the answers to these complex problems after months of discussions with big city mayors, healthcare professionals, law enforcement and other stakeholders.

“This is an announcement two days after my swearing-in showing the direction we're going to go,” he said at the end of his media availability. “This is not all that we're doing over the next two years, this is the beginning of the work we are going to do under my leadership on the issue of public safety.” Top Stories

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