Poilievre blames BC decriminalization, drug policy for record deaths

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says his treatment-focused approach to tackling the opioid crisis would face significant challenges if he were prime minister.

“Oh, it’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Poilievre said in an interview with Global News’ Focus BC host Richard Zussman in Ottawa on Thursday when asked about staffing additional treatment facilities and finding space. .

“And that’s why we need to get rid of all the money we’re wasting on the NDP, the Liberal activists and the corrupt pharmaceutical companies that are profiting from this death and misery and put all those resources toward treatment and recovery.”

British Columbia’s three-year drug decriminalization pilot project was thrust into the national spotlight last week when Premier David Eby called for the Criminal Code exemption to be amended to allow police to intervene once again. in the public use of illicit drugs.

Poilievre made this the focus of question period in the House of Commons, repeatedly asking when the change will be made.

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On Tuesday, the opposition leader was expelled from the House of Commons for the day for refusing to stand down and apologizing for what he called “crazy politics from a crazy prime minister.”

Under standing orders of the House, members of Parliament cannot make comments that personally disparage another member.

Click to play video: 'Why was Pierre Poilievre expelled from question period?'

Why was Pierre Poilievre expelled from question period?

In response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Poilievre of having ties to the far right, including failing to distance himself from an endorsement by Alex Jones, who lost a multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit for saying the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was not occurred.

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“Do you accept his endorsement?” —Zussman asked Poilievre.

“No, and I don’t listen to it. The only person who talks about him and promotes him is Justin Trudeau,” Poilievre responded.

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Poilievre says the BC pilot is being pushed by “radical activists, bureaucrats and pharmacists” whom he accuses of “making a fortune” from the addiction crisis.

“Therefore, we must isolate those radicals and fire the people, the NDP, the Liberal activists in the public health bureaucracy, who have helped cause this chaos and allow Trudeau and Eby to implement a policy that has killed 2,500 people in one year. alone,” Poilievre said.

In 2023, 2,546 British Columbians died from overdoses associated with the unregulated drug market. Fentanyl was detected in nearly 85 percent of these deaths, and other opioids were present in the bodies of 20 percent of the people who died.

Early data for January and February show drug-related deaths in British Columbia are below 2023 and 2022 levels for the same months.

Click to play video: 'Opioids responsible for rising death toll in Canada'

Opioids behind rising death toll in Canada

Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s chief medical health officer, recommended the province expand its “safer prescription supplies” program in early February.

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Of the estimated 115,000 British Columbians struggling with opioid use disorder, only 4,331 have accessed the prescribed safer supply program, according to Henry’s Feb. 1, 2024 report.

Henry said the potential to help save lives must be weighed against the risk of wider harm.

“Effective interventions to address the certain and serious harms caused by the unregulated supply of drugs take priority at this time over the potential and even probable harms that diversion causes to the population,” Henry’s report says.

Before her retirement, former British Columbia chief coroner Lisa LaPointe said in December that expanding access to a safer supply is the “fastest way to reduce deaths” during the crisis.

Poilievre called safer supply an “inaccurate and dishonest term,” and Zussman asked Poilievre what information he has that Dr. Henry and LaPointe don’t.

“I know what everyone knows: the result. And the results are clear. The results are available. And it has been an absolutely deadly disaster that has killed 2,500 people, for which Trudeau and the NDP and all the activists and bureaucrats who work for them are to blame,” Poilievre said.

The Conservative leader and his group have signaled that Alberta’s recovery-focused approach is a better path forward.

Alberta is on track to hit a potentially record year for overdose deaths in 2023, with 1,841 deaths between January 1, 2023 and November 30, 2023. Just over 1,700 of these deaths were opioid-related. As of April, Alberta had not released complete data for 2023.

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Currently, 2021 is the deadliest year for overdose deaths in Alberta, when 1,875 residents lost their lives due to drug toxicity.

British Columbia’s overdose death rate in 2023 was 46.6 people per 100,000 and Alberta’s death rate through the end of November 2023 is 43.6 people per 100,000.

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