Pubdate: Wed, 27 Aug 2008
Source: Courier-Islander (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Courier-Islander (Campbell River)
Author: Paul Willcocks
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


The federal Conservatives seem set on confirming many people's worst
fears with their sleazy, dishonest and just plain stupid direct mail
pieces to millions of Canada homes.

And at the same time, they're playing fast and loose with taxpayers'
money, pretending that partisan promotional material is legitimate
communication between MPs and the public.

You've seen them. The flyers are cheap looking single sheets, with a
picture or two of Steven Harper and a headline on some issue. Then
there's a ballot, with an arrow aimed at Harper's name.

And the flyer likely came to your mailbox from some Conservative MP
you've never heard of in another province.

MPs can send mail at no cost; the government compensates Canada Post.
The intent is to let them keep their constituents informed. (You can
write MPs without putting stamps on the envelopes too.)

But these aren't information pieces. And they're not going to the
people MPs represent. They're political ads, masquerading as
legitimate communications.

A lot of people voted for Harper's party because they were sick of
seeing these kinds of abuses. They wanted a moral, conservative
government that respected the rules and the need to spend taxpayers'
money responsibly.

They expected better.

And other people voted for them because recent Liberal governments
appalled them. Some worried a Conservative government might impose an
aggressive social conservative agenda, but decided to trust Harper.

And a flyer that has attracted a lot of attention has made a lot of
them figure that was a mistake. It has a picture on the outside of a
syringe laying a playground, and a big headline: "Safe?" Inside,
there's a jail door and more headlines: "Junkies and drug pushers
don't belong near children and families. They should be in rehab or
behind bars."

The Liberals let thugs and drug pushers write the rules, the flyer
says. The Conservatives will "keep junkies in rehab and off the streets."

It's really offensive, perhaps mostly because the flyer assumes
Canadians are both dumb and lacking in basic compassion. While many
Canadians might be sick of dealing with the effects of addiction, they
are not stupid.

The language in the flyers tells part of the story. A junkie is
someone you sweep off the street, into the garbage. An addict, someone
with a mental illness, they are people - someone's son or daughter.
And most of us - most of the time - see that.

And the wording of "keep junkies in rehab and off the streets" is
plain dishonest on two levels.

No party - including the Conservatives - has called for compulsory
detention and treatment for people with addictions.

It wouldn't work, it raises a slew of rights issues and Canadians
wouldn't stand for government round-ups of thousands of people in
B.C. alone. The capital region has 1,500 to 2,000 injection drug
users, and thousands more with other addictions. Would a Harper
majority government send squadrons out to drag them all off to rehab?

And where, exactly, would they go? There are about 100 residential
spaces for the entire Vancouver Island. How would the Conservatives
increase treatment capacity 40 or 50 times?

While the government is promising to lock up thousands of people,
addicts who want to get clean today and seek help are being told there
is no space for them and sent back to the streets.

And this all came as Health Minister Tony Clement accused the Canadian
Medical Association members of unethical conduct because the
organization supports safe injection sites. All the legitimate
research shows the sites reduce sickness and death and connect users
with other services, including treatment. There are no negative

But Clement doesn't like the idea, so Canada's doctors are accused of
acting unethically.

There is a lot to be said for a true conservative party - one that
respects individual rights and taxpayers' money and approaches
problems pragmatically.

Too bad Canada doesn't have one.

Footnote: It's odd, really. The Conservatives' dishonest flyers might be
appealing to a minority who already would likely vote for them. But in the
process, there are scaring away the voters Harper needs to win a majority -
moderate Canadians who just want competent, pragmatic government.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath