The issues surrounding homelessness have drawn the attention of federal candidates, with Sudbury Conservative candidate Dr. Ian Symington visiting Memorial Park on Friday.
A rumour suggested the park’s homeless camp might be broken up by city staff again that day, and a tip informed Sudbury.com that Symington planned on stopping by.
Although the camp appeared intact mid-morning, Symington arrived with two members of his campaign team for a site visit.
“Part of it’s just to see what it’s all about,” he said of his visit. “I think there’s a lot of information we don’t know, and I want to get involved and learn about that.”
That said, Symington clarified that he regularly visits the city’s downtown core and has familiarized himself with the homeless community in the past, which he believes has been misunderstood by a segment of the population.
“These are people who are generally not here by choice and we need to show some compassion or at least try to work with them to meet their needs,” he said.
Upon viewing the scattering of tents that line a section of the park, he said there’s no perfect solution.
“No one wants to have tents in a park where people want to hang out, and at the same time these guys with the tents probably didn’t plan to be here.”
A family physician by trade, he said the issues of mental health and addictions have come up a great deal in recent months, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a leading factor.
“It’s been stressful on adolescents, it’s been stressful on anyone who’s marginalized or can fall through the cracks,” he said, adding that when certain places and services close down, people are affected.
“Sudbury is somewhat unique because we’re, unfortunately, probably punching above our weight with this problem, so we could definitely get some resources down here.”
The Conservative platform includes $325 million over the next three years to create 1,000 residential drug treatment beds and the construction of 50 recovery community centres.
“Sudbury’s obviously going to be included in that national plan,” he said, adding the city has been particularly hard-hit by the opioid crisis.
The Conservatives would also provide $1 billion over five years to boost funding for Indigenous mental health and drug treatment programs, partner with provinces to improve access to naloxone kits and increase health transfers to the provinces.
“Really, at the end of the day, what do we want to see? We want to see basic needs being met for people, we want to see harm reduction and we want to see recovery,” Symington said.
Addressing homelessness and its associated issues is also a priority of the NDP, Sudbury candidate Nadia Verrelli said by phone on Friday.
“We’ve seen the opioid crisis, homelessness crisis increase here in Sudbury, and Sudburians want action on this and we will act on this,” she said.
The New Democrats would increase health transfers to the provinces and declare the opioid crisis as a national emergency, as well as continue work to reduce stigma and the criminalization of addiction.
“We will continue to support overdose prevention sites and continue to invest in our health-care system,” she said. “The cuts to the health-care system need to stop.”
Sudbury needs more emergency housing and she said housing affordability is also an issue.
The NDP has pledged to create 500,000 affordable homes in the next 10 years and put into place a 20 per cent foreign buyers’ tax on the sale of homes to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. They have also promised $5,000 in rental support for families in need of affordable housing.
Sudbury Liberal candidate Viviane Lapointe was not available for comment Friday afternoon.
However, recent media releases have indicated the Liberals pledge to commit $1 billion in loans and grants to develop and scale up rent-to-own projects with private, not-for-profit and co-op partners, introduce a tax-free first home savings account for Canadians under the age of 40, hire 7,500 more health-care workers and invest in a $10 a day child-care system.
Also running in Sudbury are People’s Party of Canada candidate Colette Methé and Green candidate David Robinson.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.