By Peter Wilson
The Conservatives have introduced a non-binding motion in the House of Commons calling on the Liberal government to “immediately reverse” a number of its hard-drug policies outlined in the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS), which the Tories say has contributed heavily to Canada’s ongoing opioid crisis.
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre introduced the motion on May 18, while criticizing in particular Ottawa granting the B.C. government authorization in January to temporarily decriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs.
The Tories’ motion said that Canada’s ongoing opioid crisis “has killed over 35,000 people since 2016,” adding that yearly drug overdose deaths in B.C. “increased by 330% between 2015 and 2022.”
The B.C. Coroners Service said in mid-April that almost 600 people died in the province from January through March due to drug overdoses.
The motion called on the federal government to “immediately reverse its deadly policies and redirect all funds from taxpayer-funded, hard drug programs to addiction, treatment and recovery programs.”
The federal government’s “safer supply” policy includes providing individuals deemed to be at “high risk of overdose” with “prescribed medications as a safer alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply,” such as fentanyl.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett said in the House on May 16 that the policy keeps people “alive long enough to get treatment.”
“People are dying because of the toxic drug supply. Safe supply allows people to stay alive long enough,” she said, adding that it’s an “evidence-based project.”
Poilievre criticized Bennett at the time, saying that even a safe supply of hard drugs has a slim chance of preventing substance abusers from eventually using fentanyl.
Poilievre has previously said that, if he is elected prime minister, he will launch a “massive” series of lawsuits adding up to $44 billion against large pharmaceutical companies for their role in Canada’s opioid and addiction crisis.
In March, the Conservative leader accused drug companies such as Purdue Pharma of lying to regulators about the addictive nature of opioids in order to market them as safe substances.
“These powerful multinationals knew exactly what they were doing, but they kept doing it anyway to profit themselves and their wealthy executives,” he said on March 14.
The Globe and Mail reported on May 18 that the federal government is planning on joining B.C. in a class-action lawsuit against McKinsey & Co., accusing the company of engaging in reckless marketing campaigns to boost opioid sales.
According to the report, Minister Bennett said Ottawa will become a formal class member in the lawsuit if it is certified.
Matthew Horwood and Marnie Cathcart contributed to this report.