The MyNorthBayNow.com newsroom reached out to all the candidates that will be on the ballot for the June 2 provincial election to get their thoughts on the issues that matter in the riding.
Each week leading up to election day, we will publish a story with each candidate answering a question that residents have as they head to the polls.
According to social services and municipal agencies, homelessness, opioids, mental health and addictions have all been intertwined into a major issue affecting communities and constituents right across the riding. What is your party’s plan, including concrete actions, to deal with this complex issue?
Tanya Vrebosch – Ontario Liberal Party
Liberal candidate Tanya Vrebosch says the landscape in the city has changed in the last five years with what she call’s “extreme mental health and addictions issues.”
She says it’s the reason why she’s running for provincial office, noting she has 17 years of experience working in social services.
“Some of the things we’re looking at to assist with that is to train 3000 new mental health and addiction professionals, have mental health professionals in emergency rooms and ready to respond to emergency calls, build 15,000 more supportive homes for mental health and addictions,” she says.
Vrebosch says other pledges include making make harm reduction supplies and sites more available, funding new emergency shelter beds and improving existing shelters and more.
Sean McClocklin – Green Party of Ontario
Green Party candidate Sean McClocklin says they have a number of initiatives that relate to the issues of homelessness, mental health and addictions.
He says they’ll supply 1.5 million homes over the next decade with 60,000 being supportive, mental health and housing.
McClocklin also says they’ll create a 24/7 mobile crisis line, increase funding for applied mental health and addictions research and more.
“We’re going to declare the opioid crisis a state of emergency,” he says. “Not only to help the funds flow faster but to provide focused and guided government leadership to combat this crisis.”
He says another pledge is to dedicate a portion of provincial revenues from the sale of legalized cannabis to fund additional mental health and addictions programs and services.
Erika Lougheed – Ontario NDP
NDP candidate Erika Lougheed says there are complexities around the issues of homelessness, mental health and addictions – but also says there are solutions.
She says with increasing opioid-related deaths in the north the NDP plan on addressing what she calls poor drug policy.
“We are planning on addressing these needs by hiring, recruiting and retaining healthcare workers for the north, making sure in particular with mental healthcare and those practitioners, bringing mental healthcare under OHIP, dental care under OHIP,” she says.
Lougheed also says they’ll tackle opioid and overdose issues by removing caps on prevention and consumption sites and making sure treatment and specialists are available to people in their own communities.
Joe Jobin – Ontario Party
Ontario Party candidate Joe Jobin says the issues of homelessness, mental health and addictions have only gotten worse with the pandemic.
He says it was ‘tragic’ that liquor and beer stores were deemed essential during lockdowns while many rehab and social programs were not.
“The Ontario Party will pass laws that will deem all social programs that help people mentally, emotionally and spiritually, including places of worship where people are encouraged and helped spiritually, emotionally and through counselling, to always be an essential service,” he says.
Pointing to arena projects, Jobin also says he’d encourage communities to reallocate funds to support the homeless, those with mental illness and those struggling with addictions.
He says they’ll also raise awareness and hire mental healthcare workers.
Vic Fedeli – PC Party of Ontario
Incumbent PC candidate Vic Fedeli says they’re tackling mental health, addictions and homelessness through a number of initiatives.
He says a 53-bed mental health and addictions treatment facility on Lakeshore Drive is just one of many recent government announcements.
“We just cut the ribbon at a 100-unit facility, between 60 units on Chippewa Street and 40 units on Cassells Street. All of these are homeless units that we have invested tens of millions of dollars into the City of North Bay,”
Fedeli says the District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board has also received three million dollars to help deliver critical services and develop long-term housing solutions.
He says other groups, including Hands The Family Help Network and the Children’s Aid Society, also continue to receive funding.
MyNorthBayNow.com was unable to obtain responses from the other party candidates prior to publishing.