More needs to be done in Delta when it comes to helping those dealing with substance abuse.
That was pretty well the consensus among the four mayoralty candidates who took part forum at the Little House Society in Tsawwassen Tuesday morning.
Jim Cessford, George Harvie, Sylvia Bishop and Moneca Kolvyn took part in the session, open to society executive and media only, that was described as not so much a debate but a “panel interview” where the candidates could describe their approaches. Mayoralty candidates Alex Megalos and Vytas Vaitkus didn’t take part.
What was clear right from the opening remarks, followed by a series of questions they all answered, was that Cessford, Harvie, Bishop and Kolvyn were all on the same page that the issue was a serious one in Delta that needed addressing right away. While some of the solutions they offered sounded similar in that local government did have a vital role to play, the candidates tried to differentiate themselves enough as each wanted to show how their platforms would better tackle the social problem.
Cessford, noting his experience as police chief dealing with the issue, said the problem of “concurrent disorders” was a major one that had to be a priority, adding the closest treatment facility is in Surrey but often full. He also pointed to the lack of overnight detox and safe shelters.
Bishop said the same issues regarding lack of services were raised over two decades earlier when she was chair of a youth committee in Delta, which is why, if elected, she would implement a health care action plan. That plan includes, among other things, using casino revenues to help recruit new GPs, often the first contact for families searching for treatment services.
“I think we can do more. We can do better,” she said.
Harvie noted he’s heard “gut-wrenching” stories during his door knocking, but also hears terrible stories from his son-in-law who is a Metro police officer, adding community service groups need more aid, money that can come from gaming revenues.
“We need a long-term recovery program in Delta. We don’t have that right now. We need a facility now,” said Harvie.
Kolvyn said rather than splintering among all the groups, and since empty beds are available in other communities, the cities and all the groups need to begin communicating and working together on a coordinated approach.
“We need to start an advocacy group that works,” she said.
Harvie said it’s important to start up a special public safety committee to deal with the issues and bring all stakeholders together, while Bishop went over short to long-term goals, starting with improving communication among the organizations to identifying city-owned land that can best accommodate a facility.
Cessford, saying it’s not a committee issue but a community problem that needs leadership, also talked of the need to improve community health and intervention programs, an issue “near and dear” to him.
Also noting his involvement the George Spady Centre in Edmonton and how something on a smaller scale can be built in Delta, Cessford said, “I’m not prepared to lose any more friends. I don’t want to go to any more funerals.”
Bishop noted Delta has brought in a social planner who last year produced a comprehensive inventory of services, and identified current gaps, so the base for a plan is already in place. Cessford complained it’s no plan.
Harvie pointed to his civic managerial experience as an asset in getting things done sooner rather than later, saying a top priority for the new council should be to begin budget discussions to see what service groups need assistance, such as Deltassist which is losing 50 per cent of its core funding from the United Way.
He also said an addiction treatment facility in Delta is vital, noting the city is big enough to require such a service. Disagreeing with Kolvyn’s suggestion that a larger facility for the region can be built in a suburb like Hope, Harvie said a facility is needed locally, not to share, that would serve Deltans first.
Cessford during the session complained it was “unconscionable” that Delta hasn’t had a social plan and social planner until last year. “That’s not leadership,” he said, adding public safety and addictions treatment would be his top priority.
In her closing remarks Kolvyn noted she’s concerned the same conversation about the same needs will take place during the next election four years from now. “I really hope this isn’t more rhetoric in the next election.”