Violence can never be the answer. During a scheduled public meeting hosted and held by the PEI Government on the evening of July 19, Minister of Housing Rob Lantz was physically pushed by an attendee. No matter our frustration or differences of opinion, violence is not acceptable, and I strongly condemn these actions. I am further disappointed that the real issues related to mental health and addictions have been overshadowed.
There are legitimate concerns and issues with the Government’s proposed expansion of services at the Park Street Shelter. People feel blindsided by the announcement of an Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) in their community without proper consultation. People have questions that deserve answers, and the Government needs to show leadership by striking a vital balance where it can. People are not feeling heard and want an authentic dialogue.
Unfortunately, Premier King’s willingness to play politics with this issue shows an abdication of leadership and Islanders frustration continues to mount. Barely four months ago, Premier King announced that a planned OPS on Belmont Street would be moved if he formed Government. There was no prior notice, no details on the decision, and no information on where this critical service would go. Simply put, it was a political announcement.
Last night, the elected Premier and his appointment Ministers needed to stand and present the facts and evidence that support the OPS approach and services. He waited to announce a new location because it was convenient in an election campaign and then walked away from the problem. Prince Edward Island has real mental health and addiction problems that require collective input and real solutions. Mr. Premier, people have to come ahead of politics.
Elected officials need to be answering people’s questions. Last night’s meeting was a missed opportunity to bridge the divide between the community and those who need the service. People walked away more frustrated than before, and those struggling with mental health and addictions continue to go without the critical care an OPS site provides. The path forward remains unknown, which has been the case for too long.
The tensions displayed at last night’s meeting are a direct result of years of poor communication, planning, and an unfocused Government. Residents of Charlottetown deserve answers. Those struggling with mental health and addictions deserve solutions. I call on this Government to listen to residents and immediately conduct a community impact assessment in the area and find a way to provide this important service in a way that eases resident’s concerns.
Official Opposition Office