Winnipeg 'desperately' needs more addiction treatment centres, Bowman says

“Nothing should be off the table when it comes to how we provide healthcare services for people who are ready to get treatment," the mayor said on CBC's Information Radio Monday morning.

Bowman interviewed on Information Radio as part of series on mayoral candidates

Brian Bowman says Winnipeg desperately needs more long-term addictions treatment facilities to combat the city's meth crisis. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says the city "desperately" needs more long-term addictions treatment facilities to combat the current meth crisis.

"Say there was going to be a hospital in an area of the city, the politicians would be tripping over themselves to cut the ribbon," he said during an interview with Information Radio on Monday. 

"It should be no different with addictions."

Bowman's interview was part of a series on candidates running for mayor on Oct. 24. He was the first candidate to be interviewed on Information Radio in the week-long series.

When asked about whether he was in favour of safe consumption sites, Bowman said he thinks the city shouldn't be ruling anything out.

"I've met with parents who have lost their children for overdoses. This should not be such a political issue. People are dying because of opioids​. Meth is ravaging families," he said.

"Nothing should be off the table when it comes to how we provide healthcare services for people who are ready to get treatment."

Bowman previously announced his intention to bring government agencies together to find a way to reduce the burden of dealing with meth patients for both police and health-care professionals.

A motion to that effect was approved by council's executive policy committee on Sept. 12.

Winnipeg emergency departments have seen a more than 1,200 per cent surge in meth-related visits in the past five years, according to data collected by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

In 2013, emergency departments across the city had an average of 15 meth-related visits per month. In 2018, that number has climbed to an average of 207 visits per month as of September.

While at an announcement in La Broquerie Monday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister was unenthusiastic about the idea of safe consumption sites and wouldn't confirm what, if any, investments the provincial government plans to make to improve access to addictions treatment. 

"I'm not one to throw money around without a purpose," he told reporters.

"I believe what we're after here is to get better results, better treatment opportunities, more treatment practices that work, safer communities, and I'm open to ideas."

On reopening Portage and Main 

Bowman was also asked about reopening Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic, a huge part of his campaign platform four years ago.

But with the matter set to be decided voters as a plebiscite on Oct. 24, Bowman's pledge appears bound to fail, at least if recent polls prove to be right. 

A Probe Research survey conducted during the final week of August suggests 67 per cent of Winnipeggers oppose the idea of reopening the city's most famous intersection, versus 33 per cent who favour the idea.

"You never presume the will of voters," Bowman said when asked about the issue and whether he thinks he lost his shot at keeping his campaign promise. 

Ultimately, Winnipeggers are going to have their say. And that's the one thing about that intersection. It matters to people, people do want to have a say, and I'm going to respect that," he said.