The Gap Widens

If you want to catch a glimpse of what he future may look like, you could do a lot worse than spending a few hours wandering around downtown Vancouver on a Friday night. Walk up the line of haute couture chain stores called Robson Street, for instance, and see the wealthy twenty-somethings carrying shopping bags filled with two-hundred dollar blue jeans. Listen to the beeping of Blackberries and the sound of 50 Cent ring tones. Each designer store doorway is a little stream of wealth emptying out into the great river of bling rolling up and down the sidewalk.

A few blocks away on Granville, you can see the homeless runaway kids, burnt out of meth, huddled in doorways. You can see the schizophrenics staggering around with transistor radios propped to the front of their shopping carts, the drunks staggering out into the street oblivious of the buses bearing down on them, and the after work partiers lining up outside the Roxy and the Yale.

A little further east, a little further north, you can see the truly damned lying face first in the gutter, waiting for the end of the night, the end of the world, to come rolling over on top of them. There are prostitutes who won’t live to see their fourteenth birthdays getting into the font seats of sports utilities being driven by suburban marketing reps. There are rooming houses filled with the sick and the dying and the invisible shivering underneath thin, filthy blankets.

A few years from now, this city of immense contrasts will host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The local newspapers and phone-in radio shows are all a-buzz with the news that, due to escalating construction costs, the budget for the games has risen from an estimated 470 million to a new estimate of approximately 520 million. We are being told by the organizers that there was no way to predict this upturn in costs. We are told that there will be a rich legacy of new sporting facilities for the city.

When this happens, many of the people who are now living in these cockroach infested rooming houses will be dead. Many of the ones who have replaced them in their bug-infested beds will be turned out onto the streets to make way for the tourists. A handful of the young and wealthy will have world class skating facilities. The gap widens, and life goes on.