Mayor Chris Spearman is voicing his support for Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site ahead of a contentious city council vote on Monday that could determine its future.
A motion on the issue was raised by Coun. Blaine Hyggen and co-sponsored by a pair of his colleagues, Coun. Joe Mauro and Coun. Ryan Parker.
If passed in Monday’s council meeting, the city would request that the provincial government direct ARCHES to prohibit distributed needles from leaving the site. Further, Alberta’s UCP government would be asked to stop funding of the site until the province’s review on supervised consumption sites is complete.
Monday’s meeting could see councillors divided by what has become a hot-button topic throughout the city.
Counter-protests are planned at city hall before the meeting begins and emotions from members of the public are expected to run high.
Spearman emphasized the importance of advocacy in his monthly mayor’s column on the city’s website. In it, he said that people are too quick to jump to the conclusion that shutting down the supervised consumption site would equate to shutting down the drug problem.
Spearman told Global News on Friday that the negative rhetoric needs to change and the public needs to educate themselves on the work that the site actually does.
“I don’t think the people who are advocating for getting rid of the supervised consumption site have thought that through very well,” Spearman said.
“Do you want to have thousands of needles back in the community? Back in our public parks, back in our school grounds? Because there has been a dramatic reduction.”
Spearman said he believes that instead of trying to get rid of the site, efforts should be focused on supporting it, including pushing for the province to release money committed to the city in December, when more than $12 million was announced for supported housing and intox spaces.
Spearman said Friday that the money — granted by Alberta’s former NDP government — is being held under review by the current UCP government, and he doesn’t see revoking support for the site as being a productive move for the city.
“I think bringing the motion forward at this time undermines our bargaining position with the province,” the mayor said. “I think we have to be united.
With a large crowd expected at Monday’s meeting, Spearman said Lethbridge police have been notified and will monitor what could be an emotional group.