British Columbia

Delta mayor says casino concern is not a health priority

The mayor of Delta says public health officers would be better off spending their time addressing issues like the amount of salt in food rather than warning the municipality about the dangers of opening a casino.

Mayor Lois Jackson says health officials should focus on other issues, instead of problem gambling

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson says public health officers should not be focusing their energy on concerns about gambling, but the officials disagree. (CBC)

The mayor of Delta says public health officers would be better off spending their time addressing issues like the amount of salt in food rather than warning the municipality about the dangers of opening a casino.

Mayor Lois Jackson was responding to a letter sent to the mayor and council last month by doctors with the Fraser Health Authority.

In the letter the medical health officers flagged concerns about building a new casino just south of the Massey Tunnel.

Delta is one of a number of local governments seeking to open a new casino in Metro Vancouver.

"In its most severe form, problem gambling leads to significant social, physical and emotional health problems, family rupture, legal troubles, crime and even suicide," warned the letter from the health officers.

"There is no simple way to balance the economic benefits with the risk to the health of individuals and wellbeing of the community."

The health officers noted in the letter, "The B.C. Public Health Act requires medical health officers to advise local governments on public health issues, including health promotion and health protection."

"We believe that councils should be guided by the best available information in making this decision," said the letter.

The Delta Town and Country Inn has been identified as the preferred location should the Corporation of Delta get a casino. (www.travelbc.com)

Salty response from mayor

But in an interview with CBC News, Jackson disagreed, saying the public health officers' time would be better spent on other health issues.

"In as much as I appreciate they have their Public Health Act requiring them to advise government as they say on public health issues .... I read it and I thought well this is great, but then looking at other major health requirements by the entire population, I just wish that they were alerting us to some other thing," she said.

Jackson said the amount of salt in foods was one important issue she felt they could look at instead.

"I wish they would be dealing with those kinds of things," said Jackson, who noted a cinnamon bun contains one fifth of the recommended daily intake of salt.

Jackson says Delta council is going forward with the casino proposal — regardless of the health concerns raised by the health officers.

"We are going through the process with the B.C. Lottery Commission, and we intend to go forward with an expression of interest along with the Tsawwassen First Nation," said Jackson.

Advisory defended

Dr. Arlene King with the Fraser Health Authority defended the letter in an interview with CBC News, saying it's a requirement of her job to warn local governments about health concerns linked to gambling. 

"We know that it would have potentially an impact on the health system ...  and we like to be proactive in trying to prevent the development of health problems," said King.

With files from Brenna Rose

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