Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes continues to defend himself against allegations that he isn’t supportive of the homeless.
The Liberals and the NDP have criticized the Conservative MP just days after Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky attacked him over comments he made at the unveiling of a homeless memorial in Polson Park.
“I was taken out of context,” Mayes told The Morning Star.
“My feeling towards the homeless is one of compassion. This is being used as a wedge to undermine my credibility.”
According to Sawatzky, Mayes stated at the ceremony that homelessness is not a government issue. But Mayes has stated that, “My comment was it’s not government’s fault there is homelessness. They (homeless) have come into homeless issues because of disabilities or addictions.”
As a result of the conflict between Mayes and Sawatzky, other federal parties have got involved.
“These comments are disappointing, but sadly not surprising given the Conservatives’ record,” said Jacqui Gingras, NDP candidate.
“The Conservatives have continued the cuts to social programs that were started by the Liberal government before them. They have done little to help the Canadians struggling to get out of poverty.”
The Liberals have also criticized Mayes.
“We believe that the views expressed by Mayes, and generally by the Conservative Party of Canada are simplistic and ill-informed, and intended for media consumption, rather than any meaningful attempt to resolve the underlying housing and mental health issues that exist in every region of Canada,” said Cindy Derkaz, Liberal candidate.
However, Candice Bergen, minister of state for social development, says the government has helped homeless and at-risk people access education, employment and shelter beds since 2007.
“Building on this success, next month marks a new phase of the homelessness partnering strategy. Despite false claims that funding has been cut, we’ve renewed funding under this program for the next five years,” said Bergen in a statement.
“Communities will continue to receive the same amount of funding for programs to prevent and reduce homelessness as they did previously.”
Bergen says that the focus is shifting, though, so once stable housing is obtained, issues of addition and mental health will be addressed.
“Evidence shows this is the most effective way to combat chronic homelessness.”
Mayes says he will continue to represent constituents despite the criticism from Sawatzky and the opposition parties.
“Anyone who says I don’t have compassion towards the homeless or the issues related to homelessness, that is hurtful,” he said.