Left to right: Jing Lan Yang, Heather Sapergia, Tracy Calogheros, Mackenzie Kerr and Todd Doherty. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Left to right: Jing Lan Yang, Heather Sapergia, Tracy Calogheros, Mackenzie Kerr and Todd Doherty. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Cariboo-Prince George candidates give take on drugs, crime

Answers revolved around affordable housing and getting to the root cause of the problem

Last week, the candidates vying for the Cariboo-Prince George MP seat gathered for a forum at Quesnel’s College of New Caledonia campus.

A series of 12 questions was asked at the Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce-hosted event, and the candidates gave their take on everything from pipelines and climate change to seniors.

In our last paper, we relayed the answers to a question on the forestry industry, and for this issue, we’ll recap the candidates’ response to the following audience provided question.:

“Given skyrocketing crime in Quesnel due to drug abuse, what measures do the candidates suggest to combat this problem?”

Candidate answers are provided in the order in which they spoke.

Conservative candidate Todd Doherty led off the conversation by saying the issue goes back to mental health and addiction but pointed out where else he thinks there are failings.

“It also speaks to our judicial system and some of the challenges that we have in terms of judicial vacancies and the revolving door of our judicial system,” he said, adding: “But we have to provide those resources and the capacity for our frontline workers.”

Doherty said first responders, social workers and health care professionals are going to be instrumental in breaking the cycle of addiction.

“We have to do everything in our power for those that want the help with trying to break that cycle and providing the resources for our frontline workers, and we’re committed to doing that,” he said. “We will follow through on the investments that we’ve made and also some of the investments that this current government has made in terms of mental health and addiction.”

He specified where he thinks his government should focus.

“Those funds have to get to the level of grassroots stuff where they matter the most and where they make the biggest difference, and that hasn’t been happening.”

Liberal candidate Tracy Calogheros followed by saying the problem is one that differs from place to place across the country.

“It really calls to attention the fact that this problem — which is nationwide — is intensely personal and site-specific,” she said. “It is very different in Quesnel and Vanderhoof than it would be in Vancouver or Toronto and so the solutions need to come from Quesnel.”

She said she is well aware of the issues.

“I’ve talked to [Quesnel Mayor] Bob Simpson about the harm reduction measures and I’ve witnessed some of the challenges myself in Prince George with needles.

“It’s definitely gone up, but it truly is a symptom, not the root cause.”

Calogheros said the solution lies in “investing in housing and holistic mental health approaches and in addiction treatment and rehab.”

“What I can commit to you as your MP is I can bring together the experts in the community that know where the impacts are happening and I can take that information forward to be able to lobby to be able to being back funds to be able to support it,” she said. “The federal government doesn’t know what’s best for Quesnel. Quesnel knows what’s best for Quesnel, but the federal government is the one in charge of the purse strings, so we need a very strong voice that not only listens to everyone in this room but everyone in this community and then finds those local solutions that are lacking in funding.”

NDP candidate Heather Sapergia reiterated calls for more housing.

“If you’re living on the street, you have no predictability,” she pointed out. “You don’t know where you’re going to be that night, and there’s danger to you from other people on the street. So one of the things that will help the problem is to have supportive housing, but with supportive housing, you can’t just stick somebody in an apartment if they’ve never lived in an apartment before.

“You need to provide — in that building — social services that are targeted to the particular needs of the people.”

She said there needs to be mental health counselling and drug therapy to properly combat the problem before admitting the problem might take some time to solve.

“It’s not an immediate fix,” she said. “It’s a long-term fix and it costs money to put in the supportive housing, so in Quesnel, we’d need to partner with the provincial government and look at other surrounding communities as well to see what things they’ve tried and see what solutions they’ve come up with.”

Jing Lan Yang is the People’s Party of Canada candidate. While her fellow candidates focused on the root cause of the problems, she said she wants to be tough on crime.

“Justice needs to be meted out,” she said. “We need to have the right punishment for the crime. We don’t want a revolving door.”

She admitted drug abuse needs to be dealt with too.

“I think it’s very important we give a hand because there’s a lot of issues involving people taking the drugs,” she said. “Rehab is very important, so as a society and also a community, we need to give help to get people to get over their addiction.”

Yang said the problems need to be addressed from a young age.

“We need to do more to teach our kids,” she said. “Our party believes in four cornerstone values: freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect. We need to teach our kids [those values] to prevent them from temptations,” she said. “Because of social media they’re open to lots of different influences, so we need to do a better job [instilling our values] in them. Family, schools and churches need to work together to do more to prevent the crime from happening.”

The Green Party’s Mackenzie Kerr brought the conversation back to addiction.

“I think we need to look at this from a different lens,” she said, “because right now there’s a huge stigma around people with addiction, people that are homeless and on the street — and we have seen a huge increase of crime in Quesnel and other areas in the Cariboo-Prince George riding — but I really think we need to get to the root cause like Tracy [Calogheros] said.

“I really think it’s bigger than charging people that are peddling and sitting on the side of the street and throwing them in jail. That is not going to solve the problem.”

Kerr says her government would look at the issue with a holistic view.

“We have a couple solutions, like affordable housing,” she said. “It is a huge one. We really need to be investing in affordable housing units that are for low-income people. Stability is one of the biggest things that will help with our crime issue.”

She shared a working example in Prince George

“On First Avenue, we have 100 units of affordable low-income housing with mental health programming in-house on location, and I really think that’s the direction we need to be going in.

“Investing in that sort of infrastructure to really get to the root cause.”

She added mental health strategy is imperative too.

“We need to be bringing our community solutions to the table and discussing it with other rural communities because, just like others were saying, our crime problems were not the exact same and our solutions will not be the same for other communities that are much larger than us, so we need to bring our unique solutions to the table as well.”

READ MORE: Cariboo-Prince George candidates address forestry at Quesnel forum



editor@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jim Hilton took a trip to Helmcken falls in Wells Gray park. (Jim Hilton Photo)
HILTON: Forests and human health, Part one

What can Quesnel take away from worldwide forestry programs

Amy Newman (left) and castmate Rebecca Thackray parading around Barkerville in costume in 2018. Newman designed both gowns, which were both made of silk, and constructed her own gown. Thackray’s gown was made by a seamstress in Vancouver. Her camel-coloured velveteen cloak was made in Hong Kong, with pattern and fabric chosen by Newman. Her wool neckpiece/shawl was crocheted by a friend on Vancouver Island. The reticule/handbag was handmade by Newman, and her olive green shawl was ready-made, as were her elegant green leather gloves. (Photo Submitted)
Amy Newman wins international costume design award for Nam Sing film

The Nam Sing pack trip re-enactment took place in September 2019 in Barkerville

The council supports the Quesnel Art Walk. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel arts council grant deadline fast approaching

The group has already help fund online compitition funding for the festival of performing arts

The worker who tested positive was en route to the Mine Site near Wells. (BGM Map)
Wells mining company detects second positive COVID-19 case of 2021

The employee, who is asympomatic, had no known contact with Wells or Quesnel

The artwork for the 2021 mail run was drawn by Sonja Maas, a German student who spent last winter in the Cariboo on a ranch which trains sled dogs. (Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run)
Sled Dogs to hit the trail without spectators

The mail run from Quesnel to Barkerville will be limited in scope because of pandemic rules

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Most Read