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B.C. mayors want provincial parties to address mental health, substance use

Citynews 1130 Vancouver
FILE - (From left) BC NDP Leader John Horgan, BC Liberal Leader Leader Andrew Wilkinson, and BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau (CityNews)
Summary

B.C. mayors call on provincial parties to commit in their election platforms to addressing substance use issues

The new mayors' caucus is also asking for greater provincial investment for affordable housing and public transit

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says more affordable housing is needed

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Mayors from B.C.’s largest cities called on all provincial parties Wednesday to commit in their election platforms to addressing mental health and substance use issues.

The newly formed B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus also wants greater provincial investment for affordable housing and public transit, as well as a new fiscal framework for municipalities.

The mayors specifically want expanded treatment options in months, not years, and for broader prescription options made permanent. They also want a review of police responses to mental health calls.

The requests are the caucus’ 2020 Blueprint for British Columbia’s Urban Future.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for B.C.’s urban communities and exacerbated existing challenges related to mental health and substance use, homelessness, and lack of affordable housing,” Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria, says in a release.

“We are asking all parties to commit to working more closely with leaders from B.C.’s urban communities to address the issues we face today, while we plan for restored prosperity and growth as we emerge from the pandemic as a more resilient, and equitable society.”

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says since the start of the pandemic communities have seen an unprecedented escalation in the challenges stemming from the mental health and substance use crises.

Overdose deaths from toxic drugs surpassed 100 for the sixth straight month in August, while B.C. set a record with 177 illicit drug toxicity and fentanyl-detected drug deaths in June with 177.

“We need the parties to commit to immediately increasing access to treatment and recovery options, including appropriate facilities for those with complex needs,” Stewart says. “We also need to increase access to safe supply and consider alternative approaches for responding to mental health and substance use calls, as part of the ongoing Police Act review.”

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Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says more affordable housing is needed.

“There is not enough housing in our communities that is affordable for the people who live and work in them,” he says. “This situation is also causing economic fallout for businesses who are struggling to recruit and retain workers. We need all parties to commit to accelerating investments in housing, simplifying the funding application process, balancing renters’ needs with those of landlords, and ensuring a regulatory and fiscal climate that prioritizes the type of housing that we actually need.”

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced ridership by 50 per cent.

“We need the incoming provincial government to support the financial recovery of transit providers while redesigning the transit funding model. We must keep building transit-friendly communities that offer an affordable transportation mode to all residents, especially those without other options,” he adds.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says the fiscal framework set up in 1867 — which sees local governments in Canada reliant primarily on property taxes — is inadequate to meet the challenges and opportunities cities are facing today.

“We need the next provincial government to work with municipalities to reform how we are financed and implement a broader range of funding tools that will give us the resources to address the increasingly complex problems we are facing.”

The provincial election in B.C. is Oct. 24.