Skip to content

Mayoral candidates weigh in on supervised consumption site

Barrie's mayoral hopefuls divided on SCS facility proposed for Innisfil Street and what effect it will have if opened

What do Barrie’s seven candidates for mayor think about the city’s most important issues as election day approaches on Oct. 24?

Mike McCann, Barry Ward, Andrew Gordon, Alex Nuttall, Weldon Hachey, and Gerry Marshall responded to six questions asked by BarrieToday about a variety of issues and concerns facing the city. Rob Haverson did not respond.

One of the questions was: What is your position on the supervised consumption site (SCS) at 11 Innisfil St., which has Health Canada approval, and is awaiting provincial approval and funding?

City council endorsed the site in June 2021, and last month Health Canada okayed a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) exemption, which allows SCS staff at the facility the ability to test and handle drugs without any criminal sanctions.

However, key is the Ontario health ministry’s decision — because it is provincial government dollars which must fund it, pay for its staff, equipment and maintenance. There’s little argument among public health officials that an SCS will save lives, but much of the concern is about what impact an SCS at 11 Innisfil will have on area residents and businesses. It’s this unknown that fuels much of the unease.  

Mike McCann

Supervised consumption sites, or safe injection sites, are controversial, and for good reason. Many are unaware of the need to tackle addiction proactively because they believe advocates for safe injection sites are asking for too much. But good leadership requires someone who can bring these two sides together, which is why I am advocating for safe injection sites to remain downtown, but relocated to an area with less human traffic so that we can help provide treatment while maintaining a safe, inviting downtown core.

Barry Ward

I support having a supervised consumption site because it is one of the pillars of the Simcoe-Muskoka opioid strategy, created by health experts as a way to fight this crisis, which has killed hundreds of area residents and caused unimaginable pain for their families. An SCS is just part of the overall strategy, which also includes treatment and tougher enforcement. It won’t stop the opioid crisis, but such facilities have been shown to save lives. Instead of opposing the facility, let’s find a way to make it work and mitigate any negative effects on the neighbourhood.

Andrew Gordon

The SCS is necessary to keep needles and drug paraphernalia out of our parks where our children play. As much as I disapprove of illegal drug consumption, we have to provide users with a safe place. The 11 Innisfil St. facility isn't the most ideal location, as there are many businesses that will be impacted. However, we need to choose a place sooner than later and get the ball rolling.

Weldon Hachey

Do you honestly believe drug users will wait and travel before they shoot up? Will they set up a dealer next door? How will those homeowners and businesses react when the addicted move closer for easier access? You’re inviting them in and only putting a Band-Aid on it. We assess how much of the police budget is taken up dealing with the complaints, crime and paperwork along with the firefighters and hospitals dealing with overdoses and other issues from addiction. We get a budgetary number and build a health camp. We take those willing and wanting to get clean and keep them safe from the dealers and alcohol. We give them a safe place to recover. We teach them some skills and help reintegrate them back into society. Educate and promote healthy lifestyles for all our residents.

Alex Nuttall

I didn’t support the proposal for an injection site in downtown Barrie. When elected mayor, I will respect the province's decision. I have always been dedicated to working with the city, and the province to find a solution, and will continue to do so as mayor. The current weakness in our system is the lack of capacity for detox and rehabilitation services, and I will request the province provide additional funding for addiction and mental health services. No matter the outcome, I will work with the community to mitigate the impacts that the injection site can have on the neighbourhood and the people who live there.

Gerry Marshall

I believe in safe consumption sites (SCS). My reason is straight forward — they save lives. They can also alter the course of a life as they create a daily opportunity for health-care workers to engage in conversations that may help those addicted to seek treatment. Time is of the essence. The recommended site in front of the provincial government is 11 Innisfil St. My request of them will be to immediately engage and clarify when a final decision will be made; how the site will be operated; how local homeowner’s concerns will be mitigated; what measures will be in place to protect the area's school children and how will those injecting be cared for post-injection. A city is judged by how it treats and cares for its most vulnerable. A SCS site will strengthen our community, treating those struggling with addiction with compassion and respect.