Progress Alberta Report #179

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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.


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Jim Storrie