Opposition to Supervised Injection Sites: Hubris, ignorance and grandstanding

It’s pretty bad that Chair of the Board of Health, councillor Shad Qadri doesn’t seem to have done what he “has to” do in order to properly evaluate the issue of supervised injection sites. It’s worse when councillors strip all the humanity from those addicted to drugs, treating them as nothing more than criminal elements.

Enter Stephen Blais:

“Police chief [Charles Bordeleau] is an expert in crime and he’s against this,” said Blais. “[Levy] is an expert in health, not an expert on crime.”

“This is a criminal issue. Use of heroin is illegal and the sale of heroin feeds organized crime. I’m not sure why we would encourage the continued criminal behavior,” he added.

First, I’m pretty damn sure that our medical officer of health, Dr. Isra Levy, is far more an expert on research than is Chief Bordelau. The Chief’s apparent obliviousness to all the research on the matter of supervised injection sites would tend to give that away.

(He also seems unaware that these sites have a positive impact on crime reduction…so maybe he’s not as much an expert in crime as Blais would suggest.)

Second, and more importantly, this is not criminal issue, not primarily. It is a health issue. It is a public safety issue. It is a frigging human issue. It’s about harm reduction. It’s about getting people addicted to drugs into treatment programs. It’s about reducing overdoses.

It is so cold and soulless to reduce the treatment of drug addiction to a criminal issue, as if people are nothing more than a government classification, and the wrong classification gives you a shot at a death sentence.

Cumberland! [Updated]

The Cumberland race features newcomer Marc Belisle taking on first-term incumbent Stephen Blais. Belisle originally registered to run in Orleans, where he lives, but switched to Cumberland a few months ago. There’s nothing wrong with this; Belisle plans to move into the ward soon, and, hey, Blais didn’t live there when he first ran (though he lives there now).

This has been a bit of a nasty campaign, with Belisle taking regular shots at Blais, and Blais regularly firing back. Belisle is taking a very David-and-Goliath posture, challenging Blais to debates across the ward and claiming Blais is ducking him. However, for all his talk, Belisle looked live a junior varsity team taking on the state champs when the two met for the RogersTV debate.

Belisle came off as a well-intentioned but thoroughly over-matched candidate. Blais displayed both the advantage of the incumbent (having a thorough understanding of the last four years at council and how it has benefited the ward) as well as someone who clearly did his homework. He attacked Belisle’s platform, showing the inconsistencies. He attacked the policies of the Property Owners slate, which Belisle had signed on to and Belisle didn’t seem to know what he was talking about (the other day, Belisle decided he would no longer be a part of the slate).

At one point, as Belisle was talking about the cost of LRT, he actually asked Blais for confirmation of the cost of LRT. It may have been a rhetorical device, but–in the overall context of the debate–it demonstrated how Blais was operating at another level.

But, as I said, Belisle came off as earnest. When Blais offered a cycling vision for the ward, the plan seemed to catch Belisle off guard (and, fair enough, I don’t recall Blais championing it before), Belisle admitted that it was a good idea. We need more politicians who are willing to acknowledge good ideas from their opponents. Too many will try to turn a point of agreement into a point of disagreement.

You’ll notice that I’ve written that Belisle “came off” as well well-intentioned and earnest. I also noted how ugly the campaign has been. Early on, Belisle alleged wrongdoing by Blais in the 2010 election. He complained that Blais received illegal campaign donations. Blais threatened a lawsuit. Tonight on Twitter, Belisle started at it again, claiming Blais broke the law and the he, Belisle, was after the truth.

Belisle’s allegations hold little weight. Blais disclosed all of his donations after the 2010 election, just as he is supposed to, and no wrongdoing was found. Belisle has been touting a very poor article in Metro to support his stance, but that report doesn’t really address the meat of the issue.

[Update: Apparently, I mis-read the situation with Blais. Although Blais disclosed all of his 2010 donations, they were not challenged and, therefore, no one scrutinized the specific donations Belisle is citing. Consequently, we don’t have an official ruling one way or the other. Apologies.]

Politics is an ugly game, and, sadly, these sorts of tactics will surface every now and then, but I doubt it will matter. He has a huge fight ahead of him, and I doubt we’ll see a new councillor on October 28.