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Council 'stall tactic' delays decision on safe consumption site

'It does seem like a stall tactic,' says Gilbert Centre proponent of Mulcaster location; Coun. Mike McCann said new report, more information is needed

Barrie City Council has once again decided to delay a decision on a potential home for a proposed safe consumption site (SCS).

The proposed SCS site at 90 Mulcaster St. is the location preferred by The Gilbert Centre, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), who had been advocating for that location for several months.

But at Monday’s council meeting, it was decided that a more thorough investigation was needed before a decision can be made.

Councillor Mike McCann told BarrieToday that he isn’t against the site, he just needs more information. 

“The first report had more questions than answers in my opinion," said McCann. "This is such a heated thing coming into our town that we need to get it right the first time.

"If we don’t get it right, we could have an episode like Ottawa, where it destroyed neighbourhoods," said McCann. "The applicants brought back a Grade 8 type of report and I’m looking for a university type report.”

At the June 24 council meeting, council delayed their decision on the location by choosing to hire a third-party consultant, at a cost not exceeding $50,000, to have a closer look at other sites across Canada.

None of the five consultation companies the city approached took the job, so council decided to have the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) organization double back on their previous investigation and present a new report to council when it is completed.

Coun. McCann advocated at the June 24 meeting to hire a consultant.

“We spoke to a few companies, all of which said they wouldn’t be able to work in the timeline we needed,” said McCann. “I also feel they just didn’t want this project.”

McCann has taken criticism from those in favour of the consumption site. Some feel the councillor is only delaying the approval for the 90 Mulcaster St. location until it is eventually denied.

McCann told BarrieToday that is not the case.

“I could have squashed this five weeks ago; the votes would have been there,” said McCann. “But that is not what I want. What I want is what is best for the community and the city as a whole.

"We definitely need more information and I can’t approve something without that.”

Matt Turner, the harm reduction co-ordinator at the Gilbert Centre, said the decision is a "bit of a disappointment."

“I think council wasn’t ready to make a decision and I’m not sure what they’re hoping to get out of this,” said Turner of another report. “Certain members of council haven’t communicated with us what their expectations are, so I’m hoping they will do so as we move into the updated report.”

Turner is concerned that this is another stall tactic.

“If we are asked to go through every single site and have consultations specifically with that site, that's a lot of budget that we don’t have,” said Turner. “It does seem like a stall tactic. I mean we have a federal election in October and we could have a government change by then, so who knows what could happen.”

SMOS is to report back to council when they have a completed report. Council did not impose a deadline for the report.