Injection Site Should Be Debated: Whopper Watch

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“It shows that the mayor and the city acknowledging a public health issue.”

Executive director David Gibson of the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre on Mayor Jim Watson giving Ottawa Public Health sole authority to put a safe injection site in Ottawa

Gibson also said that he thought it was an “amazing move” to take the decision for the site from the politics of city council.

Well that’s just not right. Public policy should be discussed in a public forum. This issue is important to the people of Ottawa and their elected representatives. They should have a chance to debate it.

I’m in favour of a safe injection site for Ottawa for all the sound reasons that Ottawa Public Health has explained. I don’t doubt for a moment the good work and good intentions of OPH and the community health centre. They’re fine people trying to do their best. Both organizations are vital parts of Ottawa.

That said municipal government should represent the views of Ottawans. A safe injection site is very controversial and we should recognize that opponents of the project have valid arguments. A decision on the site should be able to stand the debate and scrutiny of the public and interested organizations. One might not agree with their arguments but their arguments should be heard in the forum of ideas.

Watson’s move sounds very much like a person in a difficult political spot who wants someone else to make the decision so the mayor doesn’t alienate a large number of voters.

That’s nothing to be “amazed” about. If a decision can’t stand up to debate at council and committee, it’s unsound.

A healthy democracy encourages debate, ideas and criticism. And that’s more important than one safe injection site.

 


 

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4 thoughts on “Injection Site Should Be Debated: Whopper Watch

  1. Watson has stated he is not personally in favour and that no Ottawa tax money will be used to run the facility.
    The health centre requires a letter from the city as part of its application to the feds. Watson wrote to the health centre on behalf of the city.
    Watson should have done this only after the full city council voted with a majority in favour.

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    1. True – unless you subscribe to Watson’s “L’etat, c’est moi” form of government. He believes that his mandate from the voters includes acting on behalf of the city and that council is merely there to support him in that role. He is The mayor, after all.

      His statement that no Ottawa tax dollars will go to run the site is a good example. It’s also a good demonstration that creating the budget needs to be taken out of the mayor’s office.

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  2. The province’s position is that it is a municipal government decision as to whether or not a safe site is created in a particular community.

    I would interpret that to mean that either council makes the decision or council votes to delegate authority to another body such as the board of health. Watson cannot unilaterally hand the decision over to the Ottawa Public Health department because a) he doesn’t have the authority to give them that power and b) they don’t have decision-making power.

    Although it may surprise him, Watson has no power over OPH since it reports to the board of health, not to him or even to council. Maybe he needs a refresher course on the org chart of the municipality. Council does appoint the board of health and could, technically, remove them if they got out of line but that’s a council decision, not a Watson choice, and a power they would not exercise lightly.

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