NIAGARA VOTES | St.Catharines Mayoral Candidates debate over marijuana, safe injection sites

The four men hoping to become the next Mayor of St.Catharines joined CKTB for a debate this afternoon.

Incumbent Mayor Walter Sendzik is running for re-election alongside business owner Tunde Soniregun, farmer and businessman Richard Stephens, and small business owner Johnny Tischler.

CKTB's Tim Denis asked the candidates various questions including their thoughts on the Burgoyne Bridge suicides, marijuana retail stores and safe injection sites.

When it comes to the recent tragedies at the bridge Walter Sendzik says the region must take action to install safety netting or barriers at the bridge to prevent further suicides. He says agencies like Pathstone and Niagara Health are doing a lot of wonderful work, but they have limited resources. Sendzik would like to see more funding for mental health agencies.

Soniregun says the solution to suicide is not easy. He says he appreciates the fast response by the region to address the issue.

Stephens says if a person wants to commit suicide he or she will find a way to do it and we need to rethink our approach. He says the issue is getting worse and not better.

Tischler says adults with mental health issues don't have a lot of resources. He says we need more resources for adult mental health. He applauds citizens who are patrolling the bridge keeping an eye out for people in distress.

When it comes to opioid addiction issues Stephens says it's time to get tough on drug dealers who are openly selling drugs at the city's parks like Montebello Park. He says police are turning a blind eye to the issue. He says bad influences have been attracted to the city and we are tolerating criminal behaviour.

Sendzik defends the NRP saying they are working extremely hard to keep the city's streets safe. He says it's unfortunate that the PC government put plans for a safe injection site on hold. He says they continue their work with various agencies to ensure safe needle disposal.

Tischler says it's time to get out and deal with people on the street by meeting with them one on one. He would like to see a Mobile Crisis Unit helping those in need and distributing safe disposal options. He supports safe injection sites.

Soniregun says these are illegal issues and is pushing for early intervention. He says this isn't not too large an issue to put it in check.

Tim Denis also asked candidates about whether they would want the city to host a retail marijuana store.

Tischler says the city should be open to the possibility and he is not against it.

Sendzik says a community dialogue should be held immediately after the election and he wants to hear from citizens and business owners. He says there isn't a lot of money on the table for hosting a retail store and the cost of policing and enforcement will most likely fall on the city's shoulders.

Soniregun says if marijuana is used as a medication that is fine.

Stephens supports hosting a store saying that the city can benefit financially off something that will be offered in neighbouring communities.