WINNIPEG — Manitoba's Opposition New Democrats said Monday they will delay passage of a bill governing supervised drug consumption sites and some other addictions centres — a move that would almost certainly prevent the proposed legislation from becoming law before the provincial election.
"There has been an outcry — an outpouring of opposition from the community, from those voices on the front lines who are saying that Bill 33 is going to get in the way of their work," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.
The bill would require supervised drug consumption sites, addiction centres with beds and withdrawal-management services to apply for a provincial licence.
The licence would spell out what kind of services can be offered, set standards of care and require minimum levels of medical supervision. It would also emphasize that people receiving harm reduction get connected to addiction treatment.
The province would also have inspectors to enforce the law and providers that break the rules could face fines of up to $50,000 per day.
The bill has been criticized by some organizations such as Sunshine House. The group received a federal exemption last fall under drug laws to operate a mobile overdose prevention van in central Winnipeg with harm-reduction supplies on board.
"It would take away the work that we're able to do," Levi Foy, executive director of Sunshine House, said.
The group's overdose prevention van is not medically supervised. The small house the group operates does not screen people for provincial health cards or require that people get into addiction treatment programs.
"Many of the people who use our services are not at a point in their lives where they're seeking treatment," Foy said. Sunshine House already has rules to follow under its federal exemption, he added.
Kinew said an NDP government would support groups such as Sunshine House as well as at least one supervised consumption site. Manitoba currently does not have one.
The Progressive Conservative government rejected accusations the bill is an attempt to put obstacles in the way of drug treatment services.
"This bill will provide individuals with safe sites that they can access, will allow them to have medical individuals and also a pathway to recovery," said Janice Morley-Lecomte, the minister for mental health and community wellness.
"I go to my hairdresser. She's licensed. I don't think it's too much to ask to have a safe place for individuals who are seeking addiction services."
The Opposition has the right every spring to delay up to five bills in the legislature beyond the summer break that starts in early June, and the NDP has chosen Bill 33 as its first this year.
The delay means the bill is unlikely to become law before the provincial election slated for Oct. 3.
Tory house leader Kelvin Goertzen said the government is not intending to recall the legislature in the summer to try to push through bills delayed by the NDP.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2023.
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press