Pubdate: Fri, 03 Mar 2017
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2017 The Western Star
Author: Devin Drover


It is evident by recent cuts to our public sector that the provincial
government's commitment to austerity measures will undoubtedly
continue through the upcoming spring budget.

However, as the rise of violent crime and introduction of dangerous
new drugs to our province risks tearing apart our families and
communities, it remains clear that we cannot afford further cuts to
justice and public safety initiatives within our province.

Appealing to relevant statistics about drug use and crime in our
province brings only heartwrenching conclusions. Drug-related deaths
within Newfoundland and Labrador increased 42 per cent from 2014 to
2015. Fentanyl, an extremely dangerous street drug, has been the
subject of a recent public warning by the RCMP after the fatal opioid
was spotted on the Burin Peninsula. Furthermore, this warning comes
merely a month after a St. John's drug bust seized over 250 fentanyl
pills that were manufactured to appear like OxyContin, an often abused
prescription painkiller.

Moreover, we must recognize the obvious link to organized crime and
drug-related violence that pervades with the presence of fentanyl.
While overall crime rates in our province have been decreasing over
the last decade, a 14 per cent increase in the violent crime severity
index in 2015 shows that severe violence in St. John's is on the rise.
This index, created by Statistics Canada, attempts to measure the
impact of violent crime on a community - including offences such as
murder, assault, break and enter and armed robbery.

However, at the core of our justice system is our ability to
rehabilitate convicted persons such that their reintegration into our
society does not lead to repeat offences. Yet statistics recently
released by the Newfoundland and Labrador government reveal that drugs
and violence were responsible for more than 200 lockdowns at Her
Majesty's Penitentiary over the last three years. If we are failing to
keep drugs and violence outside of our penitentiaries, we must ask
ourselves whether we can rely on these facilities to successfully
rehabilitate offenders before they are released back onto our streets.

It is true that under present economic conditions our provincial
government has no choice but to make tough decisions and reduce
provincial spending. Nonetheless, each year that passes without
renewed investment in public safety infrastructure, the socioeconomic
costs to our communities will continue to rise. Furthermore, we must
not ignore the need for meaningful investments in mental health and
addiction services, including the need for a new Waterford Hospital.

As a province, we must find the balance between fiscal restraint and
selecting policy and investment strategies that will ensure the
strength and safety of our communities.

Devin Drover, president Waterford Valley PC District Association, St.
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