Conservative leader Stephen Harper dodged the Straight’s questions on the city’s supervised injection site at a campaign event in Vancouver.
Harper’s evening event at the Westin Bayshore hotel on October 8 drew about 20 protesters bearing sirens and placards demanding the Harper government support Insite, Canada’s only such injection site.
“We need to keep Insite open, because Insite saves lives,” Strathcona resident Gillian Maxwell told protesters outside the hotel.
Inside the hotel, Conservatives whipped up the partisan crowd ahead of a brief introduction by Vancouver Centre candidate Lorne Mayencourt. Harper took to the stage but did not mention Insite during his speech.
Afterward, the Straight approached party staff, including Conservative regional affairs director Colin Metcalf, to request an interview with Harper. Metcalf suggested the Straight approach Harper’s Ottawa staff.
In the end, realizing nothing would be forthcoming, this reporter battled supporters and security to ask two questions of the Conservative leader as he headed for the door: Was he aware of the protests outside? And, if he were to win another term as prime minister next week, what would he do with Insite?
Harper ignored the Straight’s questions. He exited the building after one final wave to his supporters. Outside, PHS Community Services Society executive director Mark Townsend told the Straight he found Harper’s attitude “very, very unfortunate”.
“Millions of dollars are being spent assessing this thing [Insite’s viability] and the evidence is in, and he just doesn’t want to listen,” Townsend said. “It’s like he’s a control freak. He knows how everything is, and he can’t listen to anyone else. So, everything is like that. For example, he thinks it might be good to buy shares in the middle of a crisis, and he thinks the best way to treat addicts is to get them treatment. So, it is a very simplistic view of the world, and it’s not listening to other people. He isn’t an epidemiologist, he isn’t a doctor, and he isn’t a specialist in this.”
The only people Harper has been listening to regarding Insite is the RCMP, Townsend claimed.
The Pivot Legal Society has asked the federal auditor general to investigate whether the RCMP overstepped its mandate and misused public money by commissioning studies of the supervised injection site.
“The only reason so much [money] has been wasted on our tiny little program, is that Stephen Harper wants there to be another result—a result that fits his world view,” Townsend said.