Green Party of Canada candidate David Merner calls for safe drug supply to address opioid crisis

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      According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there were 12,813 apparent opioid-related deaths between January 2016 and March 2019.

      And in B.C., there were 6,450 emergency-medical-services responses in the first five months of this year to suspected opioid-related overdoses.

      This has a Green Party of Canada candidate on Vancouver Island calling for a clean drug supply.

      David Merner, who is running in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, made the comment at a candidates debate over the future of health care on October 5 at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre.

      It was hosted by the Canadian Medical Association Patient Voice Committee.

      "This is a true crisis," Merner said. "And small measures are not going to get us to a solution. What we need is a radical decriminalization of drugs.

      "We need to not just invest in the right service providers, but we need a safe drug supply," he continued. "And the way to do that is to take it out of the hands of criminals and put it in the hands of the professionals."

      Merner, a former Justice Department lawyer, also declared that prohibition does not work.

      He's a former president of the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C. And when he was in this position, a motion came forward from B.C. at a party convention to legalize cannabis.

      "Justin Trudeau voted against it," Merner pointed out.

      He split from the Liberals over their energy policies.

      Merner joined the Greens and has been an outspoken critic of the cabinet's approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

      "I left the Liberals because of their incremental change agenda on the environment," Merner said. "And they still have the same kind of incremental change agenda on health care. And we need to be brave. We need to be bold."

      On September 21, Green Leader Elizabeth May called for the decriminalization of drugs to address the opioid crisis.

      “We must stop treating drug addiction as a criminal issue and start treating is as a health-care issue,” she said in a party news release. “This is a national health emergency.”

      The NDP's Don Davies raised the issue of a "poisoned drug supply" in Parliament, but his party hasn't promised an end to this in its platform.
      Charlie Smith

      NDP stops short of calling for safe supply

      The NDP platform also promises to declare a public health emergency.

      In addition, there's a pledge to work with all levels of government, experts, and Canadians "to end the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction".

      This is "so that people struggling with addiction can get the help they need without fear of arrest, while getting tough on the real criminals—those who traffic in and profit from illegal drugs".

      "We’ll work with the provinces to support overdose prevention sites and expand access to treatment on demand for people struggling with addiction," the NDP continues in its platform. "We will also launch an investigation into the role drug companies may have played in fueling the opioid crisis, and seek meaningful financial compensation from them for the public costs of this crisis."

      On June 14, NDP health critic Don Davies said in Question Period that there needs to be a national public health emergency declared.

      Davies, who's seeking reelection in Vancouver Kingsway, also called for "federal funding for overdose prevention sites, more investments into treatments, and an end to the cause of this carnage, which is a poisoned street supply".

      Yet his own party didn't follow through in its platform by explicitly promising a "safe drug supply" for addicts.

      Health Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor says her government is doing all it can to deal with opioid overdose deaths while sidestepping calls to allow a safe drug supply for addicts.

      In Parliament in June, the health minister, Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, didn't respond to Davies' call for an end to the poisoned street supply.

      The Liberal party platform, which was released last month, also makes no mention of creating a safe drug supply for addicts.

      The party has, however, promised to set aside $700 million over four years to expand access to drug treatment and combatting opioid and meth addiction.

      In addition, the Liberals pledged "extending hours for InSite and other safe consumption sites".

      And the party wants to make drug-treatment courts "the default option for first-time non-violent offenders charged exclusively with simple possession".

      This is "to help drug users get quick access to treatment, and to prevent more serious crimes".