Poilievre says he would sue Big Pharma, won’t comment on monitored consumer sites

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 at 10:24 PM EDT

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said on Tuesday that if he became prime minister, he would sue pharmaceutical companies as a way to finance drug treatment ⁠ but did not say what he would do with sites where users can consume drugs under supervision.

Poilievre made the pledge during a stop in Metro Vancouver, a region of the country that he has routinely criticized for his approach to the opioid crisis. He once called Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighborhood “hell on earth.”

The Tory leader has said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the NDP-led provincial government are contributing to the problem in British Columbia by offering a safe supply of drugs to some users and by decriminalizing small amounts of certain illicit substances.

He has criticized such measures as part of a “failed experiment”.

During a harm reduction-themed video filmed outside a Vancouver tent camp last November, Poilievre posed a question that would become the centerpiece of his conservative message: “Do you ever feel like everything is wrong?” broken in canada?”

Poilievre has vowed to end the provision of a safer supply of drugs and reject decriminalisation. The positions drew swift condemnation from political opponents and drug policy experts, who say the measures are necessary to mitigate a toxic drug supply that has led to thousands of overdoses and preventable deaths.

Poilievre reiterated his position on Tuesday.

“I don’t believe in flooding our communities with more and more taxpayer-funded drugs,” he said.

Instead, he said he would focus on giving users more recovery and treatment options.

He said that to pay for them, he would launch a $44 billion lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies that make the prescription drugs many users are addicted to, in addition to joining an existing class action lawsuit BC has started.

“Those programs are going to cost a lot of money. It’s worth the money, but who should pay?”

Poilievre also said he believes in distributing medications that relieve drug withdrawal symptoms and overdose antidotes such as naloxone.

Asked on Tuesday if he intends to alter the current rules on supervised consumption sites, where users can inject or snort drugs under the supervision of staff, the Conservative leader said only that “the overall existing system has failed.” .

The federal government currently funds safe supply programs at 20 centers across the country.

Supervised consumption sites are more common. Some offer supply programs, but many do not.

In addition to supervision, the sites often offer services such as drug testing and clean needles. They also help users connect with various support services, including housing assistance. In order to operate, providers require a federal waiver to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Federal Conservatives have had longstanding concerns about such sites, and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government took issue with their expansion during his tenure, citing its perceived effect on public safety.

In 2013, the Harper government introduced legislation titled the “Respect Communities Act”, which stipulated that organizations seeking to open such facilities had to meet a strict set of criteria in order for their applications to be considered.

After the Liberals came to power in 2015, the Trudeau government passed a bill that reduced the criteria projects had to meet to eight, instead of 26. By 2020, Ottawa reported 39 such sites were in operation. .

Poilievre frequently points out that Alberta’s united Conservative government has a focused approach to addiction treatment that is worth emulating.

Former Prime Minister Jason Kenney had spoken out against monitored consumer sites and assembled a panel to investigate their impact on crime, property values ​​and security.

The government moved some of the sites, noting such concerns. But according to Health Canada, five still operate in the province: three in Edmonton, one in Calgary and one in Grand Prairie, Alta. The government does not list any secure supply projects in the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 14, 2023.

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