KAMLOOPS - As a columnist, Bill McQuarrie knew a thing or two about stirring up controversy. But the candidate for Mayor in next month’s vote admits this time, he did it knowing he was playing loose with the facts.
McQuarrie took to social media last week to call out the City of Kamloops and RCMP for their recent campaigns to return shopping carts often used by homeless people, including drug addicts, to grocery stores.
He posted a photo of dozens of shopping carts at TRU residences.
“Could the City have been wrong when they blamed the homeless for all those stollen (sic) shopping carts?” he wrote, then alluded to students as the real culprits in the thefts. “Isn’t it time the City started making a difference and helping the homeless instead of blaming them?”
In an interview with iNFOnews.ca, McQuarrie says he was trying to make a point about the city’s shopping cart enforcement campaign, but he is well aware that students aren’t stealing shopping carts. Companies like Wal-Mart are well aware students take the carts to campus and they employ a private company to bring them back from time to time.
He says his goal was to make sure people are talking about homelessness issues in Kamloops because he feels the topic has not received enough attention.
"What I'm trying to do, and obviously what I've achieved, is to draw attention to a situation that I perceive as being unfair," he says. "And it worked. I've had a lot of views on the post and a lot of comments. And here we are now talking about it."
When asked if trying to shift the blame for stolen carts from the homeless to the students was the right thing to do, McQuarrie didn't answer.
"Why would you ask that?”
The City of Kamloops and RCMP have said they are not deliberately targeting homeless people with the bylaw and police enforcement to seize shopping carts, even though the very presence of the campaign has been enough to cause strike among some of the city’s homeless population.
Today, Councillor and former interim Mayor Arjun Singh again defended the enforcement by drawing a vague distinction between ‘homeless’ and anyone else who actually pushes shopping carts around the city.
“The City did not target the homeless,” he wrote in response to McQuarrie. “I spent a lot of time last week learning about the RCMP enforcement efforts in shopping cart seizures. The RCMP are targeting those who have stolen items in the shopping carts or who are aggressive. Yes, shopping carts are stolen property. The RCMP are exercising compassion and discretion in enforcement. The City is working on helping to facilitate transport and storage options for those who find themselves living rough. I wish Bill would have contacted me before writing his post.”
For more stories on shopping carts and homelessness issues in Kamloops, go here.
For more on the 2017 byelection, go here.
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