News / Ottawa

Mayor Watson denies province's claim that he blocked support from OPO

Three provincial officials confirmed that they offered support to Mayor Watson's office last Friday.

Justin Tang/Canadian Press

The mayor stood by his statement he didn't block the province’s offer of support for the unsanctioned supervised injection site in Raphael Brunet Park, but three provincial departments say that his office did, in fact, decline that offer last week.

On Friday evening, Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced that “the province reached out to the City of Ottawa to offer a portable generator, heater and an EMAT tent for the site in Raphael Brunet park – the same resources recently provided in Moss Park in Toronto – but these were declined.”

On Monday morning, the mayor claimed that he never received any offer from the province on Friday. 

But provincial officials confirmed on Monday that Mayor Jim Watson’s office was contacted by staff in the offices of Premier Kathleen Wynne, Minister Hoskins and Ottawa South MPP John Fraser on Friday, who were all reaching out to offer provincial assistance to the organizers of Overdose Prevention Ottawa. 

Each office confirmed to Metro they had reached out on Friday regarding the offer of support. 

Members of OPO said on Sunday that they were looking at their options to get provincial support without city approval—a possibility that seems more likely now, after Livia Belcea, Watson's press secretary, said that “if [the province] decide to send something, it’s not for the city to say anything or not.”

It is unclear if the Friday offer was made to his office and simply never reached the mayor directly. Watson was personally unavailable for comment on Monday afternoon, and Belcea was unable to provide an explanation for the contradictory claims. 

When asked if the mayor would support the province delivering material assistance to the site—which Watson has repeatedly said should close—Belcea reiterated that the mayor’s priority was securing provincial support for the sanctioned supervised injection site run by Inner City Health. That site has not requested assistance from the province’s emergency management branch. It did receive its federal exemption Monday evening and is expected to be open Tuesday.

On Sunday, a spokesperson said that “Mayor Watson is focused on the funding needs of the three local agencies that are working with the Province and the Government of Canada to set up sanctioned supervised injection sites and wants to ensure that those sanctioned sites that need provincial and federal support are up and running with the required resources as soon as possible.”

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