Three Penticton city councillors introducing motions at Tuesday's council meeting looking at public safety, service increase and housing

Council motions a plenty

The City of Penticton's council meeting has a number of councillors bringing forward motions on Tuesday.

Starting first with Couns. Amelia Boultbee and Ryan Graham, who are asking for a vote on directing staff to quantify the public safety costs including but not limited to ambulance, police, fire and bylaw "as a result of provincial downloading."

This is a concern on whether the city is taking on more costs related to a matter which ultimately falls under provincial jurisdiction.

They are also asking for staff come back with the report within eight weeks.

A Notice of Motion is also being introduced by Coun. Helena Konanz in regards to the provincial government walking back a main portion of B.C.'s drug decriminalization program, less than halfway through the three-year pilot project.

Konanz wrote that "all measurements of the decriminalization pilot project are revealing it as a failed experiment, including 2023 being British Columbia's worst year ever for overdose deaths."

B.C.’s safe-supply program has been receiving mounting criticism after the province’s auditor general Michael Pickup released two independent audits on government programs aimed at curbing the death toll from the toxic drug crisis.

Pickup's office released a separate report on the government's supervised consumption services and the first phase of the prescribed safer supply program, launched amid the crisis that has killed more than 14,000 people since a public health emergency was declared in B.C. in 2016.

Some of the "most challenging barriers" identified were rural access to the program, healthcare providers' hesitancy about prescribing the drugs and whether the drugs being offered were appropriate.

RCMP previously said some pills were being used as a form of currency to purchase more potent, illicit street drugs.

A Penticton overdose prevention site operator said she felt the failure in the safe supply program was because it was not done how it should have been.

"They're not going all in the way that they should be," Desiree Surowski, cofounder of Penticton Area Overdose Prevention Society (P+OPS), said at the time.

“What's really important for people to know or to research is the coroner's reports, and how many deaths were directly related to diverted supply. So the diverted drugs are not what is killing people, it is still the illicit toxic supply, which is the reason people are dying.”

Konanz submits that she wants to see the province provide an "adequate level of services such as drug treatment, supportive housing, rehabilitation, medical doctors, and mental health services are not readily available for those with addictions, particularly in smaller communities."

When the provincial government decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs, they said it was done so in an effort to tackle the ongoing opioid crisis and "help reduce the barriers and stigma that prevent people from accessing life-saving supports and services."

Penticton recovery groups have also spoken out about the gaps in a full continuum of care, mental health resources, accessibility to safe spaces and affordable housing as contributing to stalling progress on the overdose crisis in B.C.

Konanz is requesting for Mayor and Council to write a letter to both British Columbia's Premier and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions requesting that they "immediately halt the experimental decriminalization pilot project in British Columbia, and instead focus on building programs and services for recovery and treatment in both small and large communities, for those suffering from addictions."

Graham is also requesting for council direct staff to bring back options to facilitate potential sites in the community for senior and youth housing.

The motion will be introduced and discussed on Tuesday.

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