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Melanson: Feds and province should fund safe injection sites

Would be irresponsible for city to pick up costs, as some candidates suggest
Dan Melanson, former mayoral candidate 2014, CEO Aircrew Training Canada Ltd

Safe injection sites fall within the purview of the federal and provincial governments respectively. A municipality cannot simply say they are going to set one up and use municipal tax dollars to fund the site.

The federal government must grant an exemption from Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as well as compliance with the provisions of Bill C-2, which sets out the requirements that a safe injection site must meet in order to receive an exemption.

While there is reported evidence that the first legal site located in Vancouver — Insite — has had an effect on reducing the spread of disease, saved lives and encouraged treatment, a safe injection site is not the solution to the drug problem and is at best a stopgap measure. There are four pillars to the government’s drug policy: harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement. Safe injection sites are but one of those pillars — harm reduction — and as such are not a complete solution.

The responsibility for any program designed to solve or improve the illegal use of drugs rests solely with the two senior levels of government and not with the municipalities. Both the federal and provincial governments have downloaded responsibilities to the municipalities without any corresponding funding, the result of which has seen the tax burden on property owners increase to pay for these additional mandated responsibilities. 

Insite, in Vancouver, costs taxpayers $3 million every year to operate. 

To suggest, as some of my fellow candidates are, that the city should purposely seek out and take on the financial burden that a safe injection site would pose to the homeowners of this city, is idealistic and financially irresponsible. 

We already have the burden of more provincial and federal programs; the costs of which are being carried by homeowners, with fixed incomes, who are barely able to afford to stay in their homes as it is. To deliberately add to that burden, would be to effectively push financially vulnerable seniors and others past the financial tipping point, and result in their having to sell their homes. 

The mayor should be providing leadership in reducing the tax burden property owners are paying, not looking for ways to create additional expenditures, which would inevitable lead to an increase in property taxes.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health is currently conducting a review of the safe injection program and once that review is completed, Greater Sudbury Council, as a whole, can then make an informed decision on whether or not a safe injection site is appropriate for our city, but only on the condition that there is no financial impact on local taxpayers.

Dan Melanson
Mayoral candidate