Red Deer’s two mayoral candidates are advocating for a new treatment centre for addicted Red Deerians rather than a supervised drug injection site.
Both agree more amenities are needed for North Red Deer; that steps should be taken to discourage derelict buildings; and that marijuana should be kept out of the hands of children.
In fact, there was nothing that incumbent Tara Veer and challenger Sean Burke took opposing views on in a live streamed question-and-answer session conducted Thursday by the Red Deer Advocate.
On the local fentanyl crisis:
Veer didn’t discuss her personal feelings about a proposed local safe, supervised drug consumption site. But she said City Council favoured harm reduction and prevention strategies, including a new treatment centre and needle exchange.
If the province imposes an injection site here, Veer added community residents should have a say about location.
Burke, a self-made small business owner, called the local opioid abuse situation “an epidemic,” and also favoured a treatment facility. He said the problem with safe consumption sites is, what happens to drug users once they leave? “Do they fall on the street? What is the next stage?”
Burke recommended getting all local agencies under one roof to better co-ordinate addiction services.
With the federal government’s plans to legalize marijuana in 2018, Veer and Burke both expressed concern about marijuana being obtained by minors.
“What’s most important is our children,” said Burke, who supports the legalization of weed but would like to see tight restrictions around availability.
Veer said municipalities can work on zoning for distribution sites, packaging marijuana so it’s not attractive to minors, and enforcing laws against impaired drivers.
As for visions of Red Deer’s future:
Burke suggested a new high school and recreation centre for North Red Deer as well as an “entertainment hub.”
Veer called for more development north of Hwy 11A, including the long-awaited highway connector corridor that would create another quick north-south route in the city. Besides completing infrastructure for the Canada Winter Games, she said there’s little money in the 2018 budget for much else. “We have to manage our expectations.”
Regarding attracting and retaining businesses:
Veer said keeping local taxes and off-site levies low make this city competitive. She’s championing Red Deer College’s bid for polytechnic-university status and a hospital expansion, feeling both would increase Red Deer’s standing as an attractive regional hub.
Burke feels the city needs to get more feedback from small business owners. “It’s important that they feel valued and that somebody’s listening to them.”
Red Deerians can cast their ballots on Monday.