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Smith says she’d honour provincial pact to address homeless, mental health and addictions

The Alberta government committed $187 million over the next few years to help the province's two major cities continue work to address social issues.

Presumed UCP leadership front runner Danielle Smith said she would honour a recent provincial funding commitment made to address homelessness, mental health and addictions, if she becomes leader and Alberta’s next premier.  

Smith met with media Monday morning, in her final general media availability prior to the United Conservative Party’s leadership results announcement on Oct. 6.  She answered a wide variety of questions, including on this recent announcement.

Over the weekend, Premier Jason Kenney, Minister of Community and Social Services, Jason Luan, and Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions made a $187 million budget commitment to address homeless and addictions issues in Alberta’s two major cities.

The money for the recent announcements would be included on future provincial budgets, according to a provincial release.  

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that they would be vigilant in ensuring the allocated dollars would continue for Calgary.

“All we can do as a local government is continue to deliver the message that this is what our city needs, and right now we’ve got a situation where municipalities are all united in delivering that message together with [Edmonton] Mayor Sohi and other mayors in this province,” she said on the weekend.

“I will continue to state repeatedly, regardless of who the government is, that we need to do more of this type of work.”

‘Great announcement’: Smith

Smith said Monday that the work being done by the province in these areas is “stellar.”

She said Associate Minister Ellis has kept her in the loop on the work being done in the mental health and addictions portfolio.

Smith believes the treatment first approach is working, citing the province’s recent announcement on the reduction in opioid deaths.

“It is working, and I think we should celebrate that,” Smith said.

“I think the missing piece was in trying to make sure that we had those same mental health supports, and addiction supports for our homeless population.”

Smith said she’s already met with Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi on the issue. She hopes to meet with Mayor Gondek soon as well.

“I think we all recognize that mental health and addiction are closely tied and a lot of the harm that we’re seeing and the distress that we’re seeing in our vulnerable population in Calgary and Edmonton is going to be addressed with that approach,” Smith said.