The Ontario government has told the Middlesex London Health Unit that they will not fund a permanent supervised consumption site at 446 York Street.
The location at 446 York Street had been rezoned to be a supervised consumption site but that decision is currently under appeal.
Instead, the province would like to see the temporary site downtown become permanent.
However, it is not immediately clear if the current zoning will allow the temporary site located at 186 King Street to be made permanent.
The site at King Street was initially set up to be a temporary site with the aim of finding a location for the permanent site elsewhere.
The new site was set to take over the location of the former Bellone's Music, which closed at the end of March, with plans to lease the building for the safe consumption site.
In a statement, Moira Hamel Smith, a spokesperson for the Bellone family, alleges political interference was behind the decision.
"The reason the Site was defunded was because of pressure that was brought to bear on Doug Ford by individual 1. When we permit a single individual to wield that much influence in our little city, the result is that the rule of law is subverted. "
Brian Lester, regional director of HIV/Aids Connection, is also confused by the decision.
"What I do know is that there were folks that were opposed in that area, maybe they've influence, I don't know that. We thought we had done due diligence, we've done extensive amounts of work."
Councillor Shawn Lewis voted against the zoning change, but still believes the province has overstepped with this decision.
"All the work that went into this, all the community consultations, all the efforts to find sites. It's not like there are a lot of sites in London to choose from and now the province is going to just chuck that work aside. We need to let the municipalities do the job that municipal governments were elected to do."
Business reaction to province's decision
With 446 York Street out, the focus of a permanent consumption site shifts back to 186 King Street.
"I think the assumption was it would be temporary," says Gerald Gallacher.
The chair of the board of Downtown London says BIA members aren't thrilled with Monday’s news.
They were led to believe the move to York Street was only months away, now the safe injection site could remain in the core indefinitely.
"It’s one of those things that no one is happy to have it next door, but it does have to go somewhere. The best place was already determined, and for the province to come back and dictate that it’s not moving is a bit disappointing."
John Camara, general construction manager for Danforth London LTD was frustrated when reached by phone Monday morning.
He had heard about the news and wondered, like many others, why they couldn't just leave the site on York Street.
His company plans to build a $300 million, three-tower high rise in the parking lot just steps away from the current consumption site at 186 King Street.
Camara adds they worked for five years to win a battle against Bus Rapid Transit, and now this safe injection site could remain right next door.
And it wouldn't take much to leave it as is. According to the city, the current zoning would allow 186 King to operate as a clinic indefinitely.
"We have funding until March 2020, we have federal exemption for this site until 2020…We're leased here at 186 King at this time as well," says Lester.
"We have time to determine what we need to do next to situate a permanent consumption site in our community."
Medical officer of health and CEO for the Middlesex London Health Unit, Dr. Chris Mackie says they will consider 186 King Street as a permanent site.
"We need to have conversations with landlord there. We looked at dozens of sites in this process, if something else comes on the market that works, we'll look at that. We have a good site that is functioning well in downtown core, and the provincial government is actually encouraging us to apply for mobile site, so that's the next step."
While those downtown are frustrated at the province's announcement, at Dennis Krogman Auto Sales on York Street, his daughter Denise was feeling relieved.
They were part of an appeal hoping to overturn council's zoning decision to allow the proposed site.
"It's been a very stressful long year, dealing with this, the city and the health unit,” says Krogman. “It's a big relief to neighbourhood.”
According to Lester the most important concern is preserving the service - somewhere.
"Our community needs this service uninterrupted or people will die.”
Like many Londoners, I was surprised and disappointed to read reports in the media today that the Ontario Government had rejected funding for a permanent supervised consumption site on York Street.
My full statement is below:#ldnont pic.twitter.com/tlGw28Z0cC