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Canada votes 2021: Candidates share party plans for tackling the opioid crisis

The ongoing battle against rampant opioid addiction continues and the federal parties have various ideas on how best to deal with it
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The Crosses for Change memorial in downtown Sudbury, remembering those who have died as a result of addictions.

With election day on Sept. 20, the time to make a decision is upon us. To help you parse where the party’s stand on the issues of the day, we sent a questionnaire to the candidates of the four parties with a member in parliament, as well as the People’s Party of Canada candidates.

Issues we polled the candidates on were climate change, affordable housing, Laurentian University and the post-secondary sector, the opioid crisis, Indigenous issues, vaccine passports, corporate taxation, universal basic income and mental health supports.

Questionnaires were sent to all candidates, though not all candidates chose to participate. As well, some candidates did not answer all questions provided.

Nickel Belt Riding

What more could the federal government do generally and what will your party do specifically to address the opioid crisis?

Andréane Chénier, NDP

The opioid crisis has taken its toll on so many in our community.  Not only for those suffering from addiction, but it has an impact on families and friends of those afflicted.  However, unlike the COVID pandemic, there is vaccine or public health measures that will solve this.  Poverty, mental health, systemic discrimination, lack of affordable housing, historic abuse, legal and policing issues, and lack of medical capacity are among a few of the conditions that keep the opioid crisis from being resolved. Our commitments aim at trying to deal with complex layers of this public health crisis by working with our communities and health district to create real and sustainable programs that are culturally and regionally appropriate to address homelessness, mental health concerns and the opioid crisis. 

  • Building more affordable housing units in our community. 
  • Support the good and necessary work for so many of the front-line organizations that are working to elevate this crisis.  
  • Work to destigmatize drug users and go after the real criminals trafficking in poisoned drugs. 
  • 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.

And start the work immediately to lift people out of poverty, starting with senior and person living with a disability, and build from there until every Canadian can count on a basic livable income when they need it.

Craig Gravelle, Green Party

In general, the federal government could do more to address the opioid crisis by providing every Canadian with more choice, dignity and opportunity by instituting a GLI. The Green Party will decriminalize all drugs and create a safe supply program.

Marc Serré, Liberal Party

The opioid crisis has deeply impacted so many communities. Ensuring supports are available in both addiction recovery and in mental health is critical. That is why our government is working closely with provinces and has invested $116 million in Budget 2021, building on the 2020 Fall Economic Statement for the Substance Use and Addictions Program which supports a range of innovative approaches to harm reduction, treatment, and prevention at the community level.

Additionally, we provided $62 million for the Wellness Together Canada portal to ensure continued support by providing residents with tools and services to support health and wellbeing. These measures work in tandem with our plan to create more accessible housing, ensuring job growth and supporting other determinants of health which are all critical to help Canadians thrive. Everyone deserves accessible and compassionate care. We must reduce the stigmatization of substance abuse and approach the problem holistically with the patient’s wellbeing at the forefront.

Sudbury Riding

What more could the federal government do generally and what will your party do specifically to address the opioid crisis?

Viviane Lapointe, Liberal Party

Working in social services has taught me the importance of creating inclusive and tolerant communities. I am very passionate about advocating for vulnerable people, such as seniors, children, people living in poverty or living with addictions or disabilities. Too often our most vulnerable populations do not have their voices heard. They live with stigma, and have no champion, no voice. 

Tragically, in 2020, there were 6,214 opioid overdose deaths in Canada. And we have seen firsthand the cost in Sudbury. To save lives, we need a whole-of-society approach to the opioid epidemic that addresses the main causes and supports people who use drugs with the respect and dignity they deserve. We will continue to take an evidence-based approach to problematic substance use and work with all orders of government to support innovative approaches so that Canadians have access to the care and support they need. 

A re-elected Liberal government will: 

  • Introduce a comprehensive strategy to address problematic substance use to end the opioids crisis. 
  • Invest $25 million for public education to reduce the stigma associated with problematic substance use.
  • Invest $500 million to support the provinces and territories in providing access to a full-range of evidence-based treatment, recognizing that successful treatment is not determined by long-term abstinence. 
  • Support the many lower-risk and first-time offenders by reforming the Criminal Code to repeal relevant mandatory minimum penalties and requiring police and Crown prosecutors to consider diverting individuals out of the criminal justice system.

I’ve learned over the years that all communities have groups of caring, generous people. In Ottawa I will work to support people as individuals, and to give light to the important work of those who assist vulnerable people.

Colette Methé, People’s Party of Canada

The rate at which the opioid crisis has grown in Northern Ontario in recent years is alarming. As a community we are responsible for taking care of our own. The province and Sudbury City Council must put a plan in place and act on it now. Bureaucratic discussions cause delays which are putting people's lives at risk. A team of professionals would be needed to deal with prevention, rehabilitation and mental health. The People's Party of Canada proposes to impose tougher penalties on drug traffickers. This is not an immediate solution but it would be a sure way to combat the spread of drugs.

David Robinson, Green Party

This is not an easy problem because it is actually a collection of different crises. It is almost impossible to control the illegal supply of new synthetic opioids, and that leaves legalization and harm-reduction strategies as the first defence. The federal government can promote these policies, but actual implementation is in provincial jurisdiction. After we deal with the most visible challenges we have to look at how people become vulnerable to opioids. Some of the roots are in family problems, some in our failure to provide decent entry level jobs, some in work-place injuries and inadequate pain control systems, some in the lack of decent housing for people who are down on their luck. 

Ian Symington, Conservative Party

I believe in the model of meeting basic needs, providing harm reduction strategies and  eventually reaching recovery as a goal for those struggling with addiction.  The Conservatives Canada’s Recovery Plan will: 

• Invest $325 million over the next three year to create 1,000 residential drug  treatment beds and build 50 recovery community centres across the country.

• Enhance the delivery of culturally appropriate addiction treatment and prevention  services in First Nations communities with high needs. 

• Provide $1 billion over five years to boost funding for Indigenous mental health  and drug treatment programs.

• Partner with the provinces to ensure that Naloxone kits are available for free  across Canada. 

• Reorient the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy towards ensuring that  every person struggling with addiction has the opportunity to recover. 

Nadia Verrelli, NDP

The opioid crisis has taken its toll on so many in our community.  Not only for those suffering from addiction, but it has an impact on families and friends of those afflicted.  However, unlike the COVID pandemic, there is no vaccine or public health measures that will solve this.  Poverty, mental health, systemic discrimination, lack of affordable housing, historic abuse, legal and policing issues, and lack of medical capacity are among a few of the conditions that keep the opioid crisis from being resolved. Our commitments aim at trying to deal with complex layers of this public health crisis by: 

  • Working with our communities and health district to create real and sustainable programs that are culturally and regionally appropriate to address homelessness, mental health concerns and the opioid crisis. 
  • Building more affordable housing units in our community. 
  • Support the good and necessary work for so many of the front-line organizations that are working to elevate this crisis.  
  • Work to destigmatize drug users and go after the real criminals trafficking in poisoned drugs. 
  • 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. 
  • And start the work immediately to lift people out of poverty, starting with senior and person living with a disability, and build from there until every Canadian can count on a basic livable income when they need it.