Pubdate: Fri, 31 Jan 2003
Source: Surrey Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Surrey Leader
Author: Kevin Diakiw


The mayor's plan to shut down Surrey's needle exchange before a viable 
alternative is explored is being blasted by local MLAs and several Surrey 

Mayor Doug McCallum told people in charge of the needle exchange last 
Monday that he wanted it shut down "immediately."

Jim Bennett, who oversees the 135A St. facility, said the answer was an 
emphatic "no."

Surrey-Whalley MLA Elayne Brenzinger is the lone local provincial 
representative who wants to see the needle exchange shut down in favour of 
a facility near the hospital.

Other local MLAs oppose shutting down the Whalley exchange.

"My position is that the needle exchange should stay where it is," said 
Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Brenda Locke. "It should stay where it's being 

She said the hospital location has been explored and the experts tell her 
it's not feasible.

Dave Hayer, the MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, said Wednesday that the city 
"needs to look at the long-term implications" of closing the needle 
exchange. "Don't do something that's going to cause long-term problems."

Tony Bhullar, Surrey-Newton MLA, says the mayor's plan is "ill-conceived.

"I would think that's a little short-sighted," Bhullar said.

Dr. Gulzar Cheema, the minister in charge of addictions services, told The 
Leader that the exchange is there because it is in the area of need.

Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon and South Surrey White Rock MLA Gordon 
Hogg could not be reached for comment by deadlline.

McCallum' s push to shut down the needle exchange is part of his action 
plan designed to clean up Whalley, plagued by drugs and crime.

The initiative involves several city departments, including bylaw, RCMP, 
fire , and engineering to blitz small areas, starting with "the strip" near 
the needle exchange on 135A St.

Shutting down the facility, McCallum said Tuesday, was the result of a 
council motion last year.

That resolution, passed on March 11, 2002, stated that "council request the 
Provincial Government to review the delivery model of the Surrey Needle 
Exchange with the sole interest to decentralize the service."

Coun. Judy Villeneuve points out that nothing in the motion suggests 
closing the exchange "immediately."

She's frustrated that city council hasn't been involved in the most recent 
push to shut it down.

"Right now I haven't seen any reports back on alternate delivery models, I 
haven't had any direct discussions from the provincial representatives ... 
or the public safety committee," Villeneuve said, adding the call for 
immediate closure does not have her support. Couns. Dianne Watts, Judy 
Higginbotham and Penny Priddy support a relocation only if a viable 
alternative can be found.

Coun. Barbara Steele said she supports the mayor's plan because the 
exchange has become a "magnet" for crime.

"What we need first is to clean up that area, the crime in that area just 
can't go on," Steele said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart