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(en) Canada, OCAP Crashes Mills Press Conference

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 1 Mar 2004 22:03:28 +0100 (CET)

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On Friday, February 27, OCAP finally got a chance to repay Liberal MP
Dennis Mills for his crass and cyncial dishonesty around the issue of
housing for the homeless. His showpiece press conference on the 38th Floor
of the luxurious Harbour Castle Hotel around 'Harbourfront Development'
was brought to a grinding halt by an OCAP delegation.
On November 8 of last year, OCAP took over an empty building at 558
Gerrard to demand that it become housing. Mills pledged that if we ended
the occupation before police moved in, he would ensure that the building
would become social housing within thirty days - or he would resign as a
member of Parliament. Over three months later, the building stands empty
and no deal has been struck to change that. That being so, why is Mills
still here?

The press conference we intervened at could not have been a more
disgusting manifestation of privilege. In a ritzy hotel, with a panoramic
view of the Toronto shoreline, a veritable Who's Who of local political
and economic elite had gathered to announce their plans for profit driven
urban development. They had expected a seamless exercise in
self-congratulation but the best laid plans of Liberal Ministers and their
hangers-on do not always go according to the script.

A 30 member OCAP delegation had entered the event and positioned itself
throughout the room. Fellow Liberal Art Eggleton kicked the event off by
declaring his pride in the 'activist caucus' he was part of and introduced
Mills as a man 'who gets things done'.

As Mills approached the podium, our delegation moved to confront him. Why
had he not told the truth? Why did he not turn 558 Gerrard into housing
and dare until yesterday to still claim on his website that it would be
converted? How could anyone take anything he said seriously, when he
lacked the will or ability to open one site for the homeless? Why was he
still warming his chair on Parliament Hill when, if he had a shred of
integrity, he would honour his promise and resign? The angry questions
and statements gave way to a chant of 'Denis Mills, Resign' and the
Liberal entouage gave up the game and withdrew from the room. We made
clear to media and Mills' admirers alike that his written promise to step
down will not be set aside with the slick ease he had hoped for. Since he
refuses to leave the stage, we are here to help his departure along.

After the OCAP delegation left the hotel, the monied interests did their
best to put on a brave face and continue. Mills had the gall to tell the
cameras that he has a vision for 6,000 units of 'mixed housing' for the
waterfront area. What stock should be put on such a vague promise coming
as it does from a man who can't open one building for the homeless is a
rather serious question. Moreover, given the experiences of poor
neighbourhoods over the last number of years, the mantra of 'mixed
neighbourhoods' is one we have learned to greet with extreme suspicion.
Condos and upscale housing is where the developers make their money and
they have precious little interest in housing the poor. On the contrary,
the agenda is to socially cleanse poor areas and demolish low income
housing projects so that the central area of the City can be redeveloped
for the upwardly mobile. Token and declining percentages of 'affordable
housing' within this process will not prevent the relentless drive to push
the poor out and the defence of existing communities must be taken up.

Mills stands exposed for the faker he is. He thought to posture on the
issue of social housing, deliver nothing and come out of the whole affair
smelling like a rose. But he miscalculated. The look of fear and loathing
on his face was a picture we enjoyed on behalf of all those he has left
to sleep on the streets.

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