Skip to content

Victoria urges premier to care of business on decriminalization issue

David Eby questioned on public safety at Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce event
Premier David Eby sat down with Bruce Williams of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce at a breakfast event on April 30 for chamber members. (Mark Page/Black Press Media)

To find out what issues trouble Victoria businesses the most, it can be instructive to listen to what their leaders are asking government.

Housing, transportation and high interest rates freezing privately funded construction projects were all on the table as Premier David Eby sat down with Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams Tuesday.

But the concern most talked about was public safety, particularly drug use and mental health issues tied to the unhoused.

The two spoke in front of a packed house of roughly 200 at the chambers’s breakfast with the premier event in downtown Victoria.

“Something that seems to be a glaring, obvious point is that so many of those people need to be in recovery and treatment,” Williams said. “Is there any progress coming to get those folks into treatment?”

Eby answered that the province is trying to provide people a “continuous chain” of recovery, which means treatment extends from the medical system into the community, and includes housing.

Williams asked if there is any thought to involuntarily admitting some into mental health care centres, but Eby spoke of the stress that would provide.

“Like every area of our health care system right now, mental health beds and hospitals are under strain,” he said.

Williams also asked Eby to explain the recent reversal of government policy decriminalizing public drug consumption.

“I think that we all can agree that we’re seeing escalating public drug use post-decriminalization, and that the behaviour was, in my opinion, escalating,” Eby said.

“We had to take steps to ensure that police have the tools they need to keep our community safe.”

Speaking after his meeting with Eby, Williams said these intertwined issues are ultimately the result of a housing crisis, and Eby had addressed that in a number of ways in his remarks.

“The reason that people are living on the street is that they can’t find someplace to live,” Williams said.

But, he also said what has happened since decriminalization has made things worse, applauding the government’s reversal.

“We think it was the right thing to do,” Williams said. “For all the reasons he outlined it had become a crisis. It was an experiment that didn’t work out.”

READ ALSO: Downtown Courtenay businesses skeptical of decriminalization pilot

About the Author: Mark Page

Read more