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Honestly, I Don’t Hate Michael Byers

January 10, 2009

I’m feeling a little guilty.

After the “Byers Bomb” episode last fall, I’ve managed to target UBC political scientist Michael Byers once again, this time in the Georgia Straight.

The other day (January 4), Byers issued a press release about a hunger strike relay to raise awareness for affordable housing. Each week, a different activist is fasting to raise the profile of the issue, which is basically being ignored by the Conservative government.

Byers was quoted in the Georgia Straight as saying “it is unconscionable that there are hundreds of thousands of homeless people in this country today.”

I thought that number seemed a bit vague and a bit big. So I did some quick internet research to see if I could find proof that there are “hundreds of thousands of homeless people.”

No luck. There’s a number around 100,000 for Australia, but no hard numbers for Canada.

Being curious, I wrote a response in the comments section: “Really? Doesn’t that seem a little high? I haven’t seen any reliable stats on the homeless count, but would be interested to hear where he’s getting that.”

The Georgia Straight then did another online article trying to answer the question.

I just want to say right now that it was curiosity, not a deep seated hatred for Michael Byers, that made me ask that.

Nor was it motivated by some cold-hearted right wing political belief or disdain for the homeless. I believe that housing should be a component of our government’s fiscal stimulus plan. If those numbers are accurate, they are pretty compelling, but it’s also nearly impossible to estimate the numbers of homeless Canadians. A vague figure is unlikely to motivate anyone.

Of course, I don’t think it’s cynical to say that Byers’ has his own personal political motivations. For those of you elsewhere in the country, affordable housing was the #1 election issue for new mayor Gregor Robertson in the November elections. Byers, fresh from his federal election loss in the Vancouver Centre riding, is trying to raise his profile for another run at Hedy Fry’s seat. You don’t issue a press release like that if you’re just doing something swell for the poor.

But I’ve got nothing against Michael Byers. Honest.

Here’s the youtube clip of the Byers Bomb story:

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One comment

  1. Honestly, I don’t hate Michael Byers either.

    I do, however, abhor the way that, for Byers, ideology always, always trumps fact.

    Such as on New Year’s Day 2008 when he published an op/ed article in the Toronto Star in which he insisted that Canada needed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan so we could send them to Darfur as peacekeepers.

    Yet in the same article he insisted that confronting China on human rights is “unnecessary”, despite the fact that China is one of the leading investors in the Darfur oilpatch at the centre of the genocide there.

    Or when he basically suggested that Iranian prison guards beating and raping a Canadian citizen to death shouldn’t even result in an interruption of our diplomatic relations with that country.

    I recently read his book Intent for a Nation, and found myself disagreeing with him far more often than I agreed with him (although I agree with him on a number of topics, such as Omar Khadr).

    I’ve asked Byers about the inconsistencies in his arguments. He doesn’t answer.



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