Dan Fumano: NPA councillors question city’s approach on drug issues

Things started off on a pretty collegial tone Tuesday morning in Vancouver city council.

Much of the morning session was concerned with development plans for an 8.4-hectare site in south Vancouver. Councillors echoed their support for the project, and one commented on proceedings going “so smoothly.” The mayor agreed, saying it was nice to conduct the meeting “without the kind of friction that can sometimes occur.”

But things soon took a slightly more contentious turn, when NPA councillors questioned the city’s approach on drug-related matters, raising the possibility the party could make the subject an election issue this year.

NPA Coun. George Affleck asked council about Friday’s City of Vancouver press release, which, he said, came as “a surprise” to him.

Friday’s statement, an update on the city’s tragic, ongoing overdose crisis, included a single line — seemingly buried near the bottom of the 450-word statement — recommending convening a “task force to implement immediate decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs.”

While Affleck didn’t object to the concept of drug decriminalization itself, he had questions about Friday’s statement.

“I think, certainly, council is open to the idea of decriminalization. But I would say I was very surprised to see a press release that was sent out saying we were asking, as a city, to implement something that has not been discussed in public in this chamber,” he said. “I would like to understand and hear from perhaps the city manager, or Mr. Mayor, yourself, how this could occur, and if this was appropriate?”

City manager Sadhu Johnston replied, saying: “Our apologies, if the press release came by surprise.”

From city staff’s perspective, the recommendations in the release were part of the “evolution” of the city’s long-standing harm reduction-based drug policy, Johnston said, adding a council report next month would allow “a fulsome conversation” with …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

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