All six candidates vying for the Chilliwack MLA seat took part in an online all-candidates meeting on Oct. 14.
Questions for the candidates were sent in by the public via an online app, and included affordable housing, ICBC, and how each candidate plans to advocate for more school infrastructure in Chilliwack.
They also discussed safe injection sites and drug addiction as one of the top questions. And while all candidates agreed that safe injection sites are necessary, their answers included shots at other parties’ tactics while providing various solutions to the opioid pandemic.
Dan Coulter, candidate for the BC NDP, defended his party’s work over the last three years while admitting they had more work to do.
He noted that the party has been working closely with Dr. Bonnie Henry, who has been highlighting the opioid overdose crisis in conjunction with her regular COVID-19 updates.
The NDP have doubled youth beds in B.C., including a centre in Chilliwack, he said.
B.C. has experienced its worse summer for overdose deaths in history. Coulter said he is in favour of both safe injection sites and a safe supply of drugs.
“One death is too much,” he said. “These people are our family, friends, coworkers, neighbours… we need to fight this issue with everything we have.”
John Martin, the incumbent candidate who is running again for the BC Liberals, said that society needs to realize some hard truths about addiction.
“We have to accept there are going to be people that will be in that situation for the rest of their life, and safe injection and safe supply for them is literally life or death,” he said.
But it’s about more than just harm reduction, he added.
“Addiction is a health issue, in some cases it’s a mental health issue.”
BC Conservative candidate Diane Janzen, speaking in rebuttal, said neither party had done enough to stop the drug problem from becoming a crisis in B.C.
“My central question is where have the NDP and the BC Liberals been for the last 16 years?” she said.
The BC Liberals didn’t do enough to stop money laundering that fed into the problem, she said, and the NDP have not done enough to deal with the ensuing drug problems. She added that it was a BC Liberal government that closed down a detox facility in Chilliwack years ago.
“BC Conservatives believe we need to blow up the system,” she said.
Janzen is also the executive director of Chilliwack Community Services. She said what this community needs most is adult male treatment beds, and to look into prevention, especially for youth.
And those who are known to be prolific drug dealers need to get “hammered” by the justice system, she added.
Both the Libertarian candidate, Andrew Coombes and the Green candidate Tim Cooper both stated they also support safe-injection sites.
Coombes added that China needs to be held accountable for drugs that are coming into the country.
Cooper told a story about a man he knows who struggles with employment due to drug-use history. He lauded a system used in Portugal where they have decriminalized certain aspects of drug use, and help former drug users transition back into society.
Independent candidate Josue Anderson was not called on for that particular question, as per the meeting’s format.
The Chilliwack all-candidates meeting begins at about the 46-minute mark in a video accessible at www.theprogress.com. It is followed by the Chilliwack-Kent meeting. The video is courtesy of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube channel.