Progress Report #179
Your weekly update on Alberta politics for August 12, 2019
Kenney & co. launch more attacks on harm reduction
While Albertans continue to die at an alarming rate from fentanyl and opioid drug abuse, Jason Kenney and his proxies are continuing to ramp up their rhetorical attacks on safe consumption sites.
Two of Kenney’s favored stand-ins–Rick Bell and Danielle Smith–took respectively to the pages of the Postmedia-owned Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal to write incendiary, misinformation-filled screeds against harm reduction. Kenney picked up the ball on the weekend, using Bell’s article as a launching point to muse about pushing out Calgary’s Sheldon S. Chumir safe consumption site.
Meanwhile, down in Lethbridge a city councillor is echoing Kenney as he pushes for a vote next Monday that might see the city call for Lethbridge’s sites–some of the most used and desperately-needed in all of Canada–defunded.
You might notice Bell and Kenney both using the term ‘drug site’ to describe harm reduction facilities. That’s a new twist which I’m sure we’ll hear constantly from the conservatives from here on out–a bit of ‘tar sands’ style wordplay to make them sound extra-bad.
The UCP agitation against harm reduction serves two very valuable purposes for Kenney. First, it’s a good way to engage his base; contempt for and prejudice against people struggling with addiction is pretty common over on the right, and it’s always easy to work up a crowd by appealing to their worst sides.
But more importantly, it gives him a way to be engaged with the issue of Alberta’s opioid crisis without actually doing anything.
It’s definitely true that safe consumption sites are not solving the opioid crisis on their own. That doesn’t mean we should get rid of them–what it means is that more resources need to be allocated to treatment, housing, and poverty reduction programs that would work in concert with the sites.
As long as Kenney is shaking his fist at safe consumption sites, he gets to appear as though the UCP are addressing this crisis without having to spend a penny on any of that.
It’s cynical, heartless stuff from the UCP, as usual. And while they agitate more and more Albertans against one of the few tactics that actually is taking a dent out of the death toll, opioids continue to snuff us out.
- Duncan broke an interesting story on the latest episode of our Progress Report podcast–apparently AIMCO, which oversees many of the province’s pensions, had been investing in CoreCivic and Geo Group, the corporations running Trump’s immigrant concentration camps. Check out the pod, featuring special guest Russell Cobb, for the details. Or there’s this story in the Star if you’re more of a reader.
- Public outcry may have saved the Rutherford Scholarship but pretty much every other scholarship and bursary handled by the provincial government has mysteriously been put on hold. Like with PDD and FSCD funding a couple of weeks ago, this seems to be the government’s go-to strategy for cuts: just silently make things disappear and only bring back the bits the public really howls about. Hunger games but for the budget, you might say.
- The UCP and NDP caucuses got in an odd scrap this week after Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, appearing on the Danielle Smith radio show to sell the ‘Chicago Principles’ policies that the UCP want to bring in (policies that would punish universities if they refused to allow figures like Faith Goldy or Jordan Peterson to hold events on campus), argued that the policies are necessary by referring to the censure of Anthony Hall. Hall, you may remember, was suspended from teaching after he outed himself in online comments as a holocaust denier. The NDP caucus were quick to pounce on Demetrios which triggered a flurry ofcounter-attacks from Kenney’s official troll account, ‘@UniteAlberta,’ aiming to paint the NDP as anti-Semites.
- Libraries across the province are scrambling as the UCP government has held back half of their annual funding. The government claims that funding is held up because they haven’t released a budget yet–but by this point in 2015, the new NDP government had already provided three quarters of library funding and guaranteed the rest. Libraries are a modest portion of the provincial budget at best yet they provide incredible benefits to our communities–if you want to give the government a kick in the pants and tell them to properly fund our libraries, send a letter using the tool we’ve set up online.
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