London

Doug Ford won't say if he'd support supervised consumption site for London

A month after Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford said he was "dead set against" supervised consumption sites, his stance appears to be softening, saying at a campaign stop in London, Ont. Friday he would 'consult with experts.'

Ford said he would 'consult with experts' on whether cities should pursue supervised consumption sites

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford used a private clinic as a backdrop to announce how he'd cut public health care wait times at a campaign stop in London, Ont., on Friday. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

A month after Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford said he was "dead against" supervised consumption sites, his stance appears to be softening, saying at a campaign stop in London, Ont., on Friday he would "consult with experts" if elected premier. 

It was all surrounding the campaign scandals and the scandals in his personal life before we even got to one question about health care.- Peter Bergmanis

Ford announced Friday that if he were elected premier, the province would create 30,000 new long-term care beds over the next decade, while pledging $1.9 billion over the same period for mental health, addictions and housing supports as well as dental care for low-income seniors. 

But when it came to questions about London's proposed permanent supervised consumption site, he turned his back and almost walked away. 

Ford returns to the podium

Doug Ford doesn't seem to want to answer questions about local healthcare 1:59

Ford has said on a visit to Sarnia in April that he's "dead against" supervised consumption sites.

In London on Friday however, Ford didn't say that. Nor would he answer specific questions about the fate of London's supervised consumption site if he became premier. 

London health officials are currently working to secure two locations for use as supervised consumption sites, with the city dealing with an increasingly deadly opioid crisis. A temporary site has been operating downtown since January. Such sites allow people to consume illega drugs under the supervision of harm-reduction staff as a way to prevent fatal overdoses. 

'Consult with the experts'

Ford told reporters he's "going to consult with the experts" and named doctor Ruebin Devlin, his chief policy advisor on health care and the former CEO of Humber River Hospital in Toronto, as the source of any future advice on London's supervised consumption site.

The move to create a supervised consumption site for London already has the backing of local experts, including the city's top medical authorities, politicians and law enforcement officials

"This is just beyond belief," said Peter Bergmanis, head of the London Healthcare Coalition, a local health care union. "It was all surrounding the campaign scandals ... before we even got to one question about health care. He didn't answer it whatsoever."

Bergmanis noted the fact that Ford said he'd refer to his own experts for advice when local experts have already endorsed a site for London.

"A lot of thoughful Londoners have really struggled with this," he said. "The research is solid. You do have to start somewhere. When you do have a safe injection site, the death rates go down, people finally get the proper care, it's a safer environment all around."

What Ford chose to answer instead was a handful of questions from GTA reporters who focused on a brewing scandal  involving 407 customer data theft, allegedly by Simmer Sandhu, a man who was running under the Progressive Conservative mantle until he resigned late Wednesday. 

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About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca