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Council votes to support supervised consumption services, moving forward with ranked ballots

Travis Mitchell, Community Liaison and Overdose Prevention Site Coordinator for Street Health Centre addresses Kingston City Council regarding their supervised consumption services at the council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018.

Council votes to support supervised consumption services, moving forward with ranked ballots

During their first official meeting, the 2018 to 2022 Kingston City Council had a few large items on the agenda, two of which drew members of the public to the gallery.

The only delegation before council at the meeting, held in Council Chambers on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, came from Susan Stewart, Director of the Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Division of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, and Travis Mitchell, Community Liaison and Overdose Prevention Site Coordinator for Street Health Centre. Stewart and Mitchell addressed Council about the use and success rate of the supervised consumption service at Kingston Community Health Centre (KCHC)’s Street Health Centre location. Their presentation was given with respect to an item that would later come before Council, seeking Council’s support of the continuation of the supervised consumption services.

The organizations were seeking the official support of Council for the continuation of those services. Due to recent provincial changes, KCHC is required submit an application to the provinicial government by the end of 2018 for approval and funding to continue providing the services. That application requires a motion of support from City Council (but no financial support).

Council heard that, since the Street Health Centre began operating the supervised consumption services (which are referred to an ‘Overdose Prevention Site’ and is currently only temporary), the site has been used over 700 times by 102 unique individuals, and that the number of those using the site increases monthly. Additionally, staff at the site have referred multiple clients to other support services, and work with a number of community partners, including Home Base Housing and detox programs through Kingston Health Sciences Centres. Included in their report to Council, Stewart and Mitchell indicated two surveys were conducted to gauge the community reaction to the Overdose Prevention Site. The first survey was done with local businesses, which indicated 74 per cent of those businesses surveyed support the existence of the service. The second survey was with local residents, 84 per cent of whom indicated their support of the services.

Both Stewart and Mitchell spoke to the raising rates of opioid overdose, particularly in relation to the prevalence of fentanyl in the area. The overdose rates, and the rates of death due to overdose in Kingston and the area are higher than the provincial average, they explained. When asked why that might be by Councillor Wayne Hill, Mitchell pointed to Kingston’s location being central between major cities in the province. He also spoke to the fact that crystal methamphetamine, which is the most widely used in Kingston (fentanyl is number two), is often used by those with complex mental health issues because its desirable effects. Mitchell said, however, there is no definitive answer to why local overdose and death rates are higher than the provincial average.

In the end, Council voted unanimously to support the continuation of the supervised consumption services.

Later in the agenda, Mayor Bryan Paterson brought forward a motion regarding ranked ballots. Paterson outlined that, although there was a less than 50 per cent voter turnout during the September municipal election (which means the results of any referendum question are not binding), he feels Council should direct staff to move forward in looking into implementing ranked ballots for the 2022 municipal election.

“I’ve been very clear on my stance about this throughout the campaign, and after the election,” Paterson said, noting that he feels that Council should take the direction of the majority of voters on this referendum question the same way the previous council did with the referendum question regarding support for a casino in Kingston.

This motion garnered substantial reaction from councillors, many of whom voiced their support on looking into implementing a ranked ballot for the next election. Members of the ‘Yes! Kingston’ group in support of ranked ballots sat in the gallery, proudly wearing their purple ‘Yes!’ shirts.

Councillor Mary Rita Holland expressed her support of the ranked ballot, stating that she felt a ranked ballot would allow for more diversity on council. She said she thinks a ranked ballot will increase the number of people who put their names forward to become city councillors.

“A lot of people are talked out of it based on the idea of split votes,” she said, adding that there are currently only three women sitting around the horseshoe in Kingston Council Chambers.

Councillor Bridget Doherty said she believes more voters can be engaged with a ranked ballot, and Councillor Ryan Bohme and Hill stated that, while they support the idea of moving forward, they are very interested in finding out more about the costs that would be associated with doing so. Councillor Lisa Osanic said she would like City Staff to also look into the experience Cambridge, Ont. has had with ranked ballots, as well as in London, Ont. (the motion only mentioned London). She asked that staff specifically look into delays in election results and what has caused them.

It was only Councillor Simon Chapelle who voiced opposition to moving forward and directing Staff to create a report on the experiences of the City of London, as outlined in the motion.

“I like to think that I worked hard to make myself known to the electorate, and I also campaigned for the ‘no’ side, against preferential balloting in this format, because I think it also creates some additional problems,” he said.

“I would urge my colleagues to vote against this.”

In the end, however, Council voted 12 to one in favour of requesting staff to “provide a report on the experiences of the City of London to Council” by the end of the second quarter of 2019, and “that said report provide a high level analysis that can assist in the implementation of Ranked Ballot Voting in the City of Kingston.”

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