Canada Votes 2019: Read how each of the candidates and their parties will respond to the national opioid crisis.

Various pharmaceutical companies created and marketed opiate-based drugs as successful non-addictive painkilling medicine.

An unintended consequence has been the national crisis of opiate addiction as these drugs have moved far out of their original medical purpose and have become one of the primary street drugs of preference and in the process, has become an agent of death and desperation in a large percentage of the population, particularly men in their 20s and 30s.

Manitoulin is representative of the social chaos that opiates have brought to bear here and this has resulted in a medical sub-specialty to help people manage their opiate addictions.

If your party forms the next government, what is its plan to address this crisis? 

Max Chapman
Green Party of Canada

The country has been rocked by a growing overdose epidemic. People are dying because they cannot get the treatment and resources they need to recover from their addiction. Recently we have seen the provincial government moving backwards on the issue, and doing the opposite of what experts are telling us is required to treat this crisis.

Previous attempts at curbing drug use have proven punitive and unsuccessful. It is important that the next government set their priorities straight and focus on providing treatment for people suffering from addiction, reduce the stigma around seeking help, and focus on punishing the trafficking of drugs rather than the drug users.

First and foremost, we must start treating the opioid crisis as a crisis in health for people suffering from addiction. That is why the Green Party will declare a public health emergency in Canada with regards to addressing the overdose epidemic. In doing so we plan to increase funding to community based addiction programs who are on the frontlines of treating addiction and overdoses across the country. We will ensure access to life saving naloxone kits in all communities and healthcare facilities.

To reduce the stigma surrounding addiction Greens will support the decriminalization of drug possession, while continuing our efforts to stop drug trafficking across Canada. This way we can free up police resources to target criminal activity, and also stop punishing addicts so they can freely seek the help they need. We will repeal mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offences. No Canadian should be afraid to ask for help and access the treatment they need to get better.

Finally, we will support a safe supply of opioids for addiction services to administer. This way we can ensure that addicts are not seeking drugs which may be poisoned with dangerous substances, like fentanyl. This will allow community organization and addiction services to curb the number of drug related deaths in our communities.

Along with ensuring the proper treatment exists for people suffering from addiction, we must also address systemic issues of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness. That is why we are advocating the creation of a Guaranteed Livable Income, an improved National Housing Strategy, and the creation of millions of new jobs in infrastructure, public services and sustainable industry.

If the government is serious about helping people than it must take a more compassionate approach to addiction. We cannot afford to keep pushing people who are seeking help to the margins of society and ignoring their situation. Funding community organizations and helping frontline workers is an important first towards a solution, but unless we fundamentally shift the conversation around drug use and addiction we cannot hope to address the full scope of the crisis.

Heather Wilson
Liberal Party of Canada

Thousands of people in Canada die from overdoses related to drug use. Last year, more than 4,000 of those deaths were from opioid use alone, and methamphetamine addition is also on the rise. The opioid crisis is the greatest public health emergency since the AIDS epidemic and could lead to a decrease in Canadian’s life expectancies for the first time in history.

To help more people access the addition treatment services they need, we will move forward with new investments that help provinces and territories expand community-based services, build more in-patient rehab beds, and scale up the most effective programs such as extending hours for InSite and other safe consumption sites.

We will also make drug treatment court the default option for first-time non-violent offenders charged exclusively with simple possession, to help drug users quick access to treatment and to prevent more serious crimes.

Since 2015, the Liberal government has already invested in the opioid crisis. We have committed to funding a comprehensive public health emergency response through support of services that deliver effective treatment to prevent overdose deaths and increase access to treatment. We removed regulatory barriers to allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances for treatment and for nurses to be able to transport controlled substances. This is particularly important in Northern Ontario where access to doctors can be prohibitive. When patients can access nurse practitioners and nurses and don’t have to wait for appointments with doctors then health outcomes improve.

The Liberal government has also enhanced delivery of culturally appropriate substance use treatment and prevention services with First Nations and Inuit communities. This is again of particular importance for areas such as Manitoulin Island where cookie cutter solutions are not applicable for effective treatment for First Nations people. A Liberal government has already committed to support 25 additional communities-based opioid treatment sites in First Nations communities. While standards are set by the federal government, we understand that culturally sensitive solutions are what works in the North. Northern communities know what we need here to address this health crisis and the Liberal government has shown that we do listen and deliver with made-in-the-North solution. I have had first-hand experience with social service delivery on Manitoulin Island and I know that health outcomes improve when we listen and understand the challenges of the region.

The 2019 budget included $30.5 million over five years to address harm reduction including support for first responders to be trained to deliver life-saving medication that can stop or reverse an opioid overdose particularly in underserviced communities like Northern Ontario.

We also must focus on the socio-economic conditions that have been known to contribute to drug use. In the last four years the Liberal government has shown that we are committed to addressing conditions of poverty, housing and education levels that can contribute to increased drug use but of course, there is more work to be done.  

In addition, we have seen programs that are targeting youth to deliver awareness in the dangers of drug use. In March of this year, for example, close to 100 youth, teens and adults from Manitoulin Island and across Canada attended the first ever Youth Empowerment and Safety (YES) conference hosted by Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service. The purpose was to bring youth together on issues that affect them regarding the nation-wide opioid crisis especially on Manitoulin Island. Focusing on areas of education, prevention, treatment and enforcement supporting community-based solutions is how we will not only deal with the current crisis, but work together to eradicate this crisis.

The previous Liberal government has been listening to the voices of the people in the North but there is more work to be done. We cannot afford four more years in opposition in this riding. By electing a Liberal Member of Parliament, residents of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing can be assured that their voices will be heard in Ottawa and we can move forward with made in the North solutions so we can all live peaceful and fulfilling lives.

Dave DeLisle
People’s Party of Canada

Addictions have become a problem for many people. It is something that spans all economic and social statutes.

It also affects friends and family of the person facing the addiction. Unfortunately, those who face addictions must first realize that they themselves have a problem, that they themselves need and want help. There is no easy solution to this problem. It is going to need a comprehensive approach.

I would like to see a place for those who use these drugs, to have a safe place to go and talk to others who also use so that they talk about their lives, their problems, and maybe hearing from other people, they can be helped to realize that they too need help.

Once they realize that they need help in fighting their addictions, I would like to see rehabilitation programs that help them overcome their addictions, a place that is easy for them to access, and afford. Once they have completed the addictions rehabilitation program, I would love to see a program available in the area to help them continue their struggle in staying clean for at least a year to help learn to cope and stay busy so that they do not relapse.

I have read about one such program that is not just for people who have faced addiction. Once they have gone through rehab, they would be able go into the program which would offer healing for those who are broken; it is an after treatment program for those who want to stay clean. They train people in several areas to mass produce food and other products to help keep the program funded as to not need to rely on government long-term funding.

These types of programs would be great and a win-win situation. It offers a real solution to a real problem, teaches those affected the skills that they will need to become productive members of society and helps to save the taxpayers money.

Dave Williamson
Conservative Party of Canada

It is clear that Canada has a national addictions crisis that requires a comprehensive response. Unfortunately, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have failed to provide leadership on addiction in Canada. Rather than prioritize the recovery of addicts, Justin Trudeau has only provided Band-Aid solutions. It is also clear that Carol Hughes and Jagmeet Singh will not be part of the governing party so they will not be in a position to help solve this critical issue.

Canada’s Conservatives believe that, given the opportunity and appropriate supports, Canadians who suffer from addiction have the ability to recover. We recognize that we need a comprehensive, recovery-oriented plan to tackle Canada’s addiction crisis and we will work toward building a system of care where everyone who struggles with addiction is offered treatment and a pathway to recovery.

We are committed to increasing the amount of social and health care money the provinces receive from the federal government by a minimum of three percent per year. This will provide the money needed to take real action on this issue.

I would like to thank The Expositor for allowing me to share the Conservative Party of Canada’s platform with you. As a local, with extensive knowledge of the Island I believe I am the best person to represent your interests in Ottawa. My focus is on creating jobs, lowering taxes and protecting both the climate and our way of life which includes hunting and fishing. The Liberals and the NDP just do not care about us. They want to take away our guns, raise taxes and offer everything under the sun without thinking about the future generations, our grandchildren, who will have to pay for it.

On October 21, vote for Dave Williamson. It is time to get ahead, not just get by, and to do that we need a voice in Ottawa on the right side of the house.

Carol Hughes
New Democratic Party

Every day across the country 11 Canadians die of opioid-related causes. In Ontario, OPP statistics show a 35 percent increase in overdose deaths during the first quarter of 2019 compared to 2018. The human cost of this is shouldered by families who have tragically lost parents, partners, siblings and children to the opioid crisis. Every part of the country has been impacted by these highly addictive and dangerous drugs, from our busiest downtown neighbourhoods to the most remote communities. And too often, the impacts are worse for the most vulnerable and marginalized people.

Confronting the opioid public health emergency without ending the stigma associated with criminalization of people who use drugs makes it significantly more difficult to mount an effective response. It is also important to understand that the reach of opioids such as fentanyl extends well past addicted populations, having killed many who thought they were taking other substances recreationally. The simplistic concept of a war on drugs has failed us for decades, done little to help addicted populations, protect those who occasionally take drugs or cut off the supply.

Poverty is another obstacle. The oxycontin crisis showed how cheap, accessible and addictive substances can take a grip on impoverished areas that now struggle with opioids like fentanyl. The correlation between poverty and addiction shows this demographic is most at risk. Canada has not done enough to combat poverty, which is why New Democrats are committed to expanding social housing, providing free prescription drugs, essential dental care, and continuing the basic income study scrapped by Doug Ford. 

Despite the obvious harm and shocking death toll that these drugs have caused, the Liberal government has failed to mobilize an effective response. They have not declared a public health emergency or taken any steps to investigate the role that drug companies may have played in fueling the crisis. The federal response lags behind the urgent action taken by provinces like British Columbia, which has a three-year head start on this front. With good models to follow and improve upon, it’s time for Canada to catch up. 

New Democrats believe that there is much more we can do to save lives and support those struggling with opioids. In government, we will declare a public health emergency and commit to working with all levels of government, experts and Canadians to end the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction so that people can get the help they need without fear of arrest. We will get tough on the real criminals—those who traffic in 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. 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 the international level, fentanyl from China is exacerbating the problem. Mail and shipping containers from China routinely deliver fentanyl to criminals and their organizations, making it more difficult to confront the supply problem. While the official line is that China is co-operating with Canada to combat the problem, the situation has become worse as time marches on.

Finally, we should consider advice from experts like Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer, who is calling for the decriminalization of drug use and securing the supply for addicts. That will provide people at risk of overdose with low-barrier access to a regulated supply of opioids. We can then connect people who use drugs with the supports they need, rather than sending them to the criminal justice system.a