In an open letter to the city council of Barrie, Mayor Cam Guthrie encouraged the municipality to consider allowing a safe consumption site to open within its borders as a tool to tackle the opioid crisis, admitting that despite his own initial resistance to such a program, he has since come on board.

“I was once like many of you,” Guthrie writes, saying that “there was no way an overdose prevention site, or a safe consumption site, would ever open its doors in my city”. The mayor said that he used a variety of excuses, including that such a site enabled drug users or that it was another government’s problem.

“But then the opioid crisis landed on my city doorstep,” he continues in the letter, posted by Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman. Despite the city’s efforts to combat the issues arising from the crisis, the mayor said that Guelph was missing a tool in its toolbox — a safe consumption site.

“I have done a complete 180 degree turnaround when it comes to the site in Guelph over its year in operation,” Guthrie, who was re-elected as mayor last year, writes. His concerns have disappeared as people are getting treatment to leave their addictions behind, crime has not skyrocketed and emergency room departments are not being abused.

For him, important infrastructure in the community goes beyond roads, bridges and fixing potholes, but rather he aims to prioritize “the infrastructure of our people” — aiming to create “complete communities” where everyone is cared for, has value and a “hand up, not a hand out, in life.”

“I want Guelph to be a city that embraces these values and I want my colleagues in Barrie to embrace them too.”