Pubdate: Mon, 27 Mar 2017
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Matt Kieltyka


MP Davies says Liberal budget is a fifth of what Tories proposed

The New Democratic Party's health critic calls the amount of money
devoted to fighting the ongoing overdose crisis in the federal budget

Don Davies, MP for Vancouver Kingsway, says the $110 million set aside
for the Canadian Drugs and Substance Strategy over five years is a
fifth of the $556 million proposed by the former Conservative
government in its last budget.

The reduced spending comes at a time when many provinces are
struggling to contain an ongoing overdose death crisis.

Davies lives in the province that has been hit hardest.

Having already declared a public health emergency, 914 people died of
illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia last year.

At least 21 people have died this month in Vancouver alone, according
to the city.

"I was grossly disappointed and frankly somewhat shocked, actually,"
Davies said of the Trudeau government's drug measures. "If 50
Canadians were dying a week from ebola, or dengue fever, or H1N1, I
bet you'd see the federal government marshalling its resources in a
very quick way to respond to that emergency. With people dying there
is no excuse for the government not to allocate resources to deal with
it. This budget is just a complete failure to do that."

The federal government has allocated $16 million recently for British
Columbia and Alberta to fight their fentanyl-fuelled overdose crisis
but doesn't budget any further spending in that area over the next
five years.

Davies does give credit to the Liberals for reinstating harm reduction
in its drug strategy and for introducing legislation to repeal a
Conservative bill that made it nearly impossible for provinces to
establish supervised injection and consumption sites.

But the Canadian Drugs and Substance Strategy funding, most of which
is devoted to the Liberals' plan to decriminalize marijuana, isn't
enough to fend off an escalating crisis, Davies said.

"I was looking for a significant injection of new money, particularly
aimed at treatment," he said.

The NDP has called on the federal government to declare a national
public welfare emergency to address overdose deaths.

Davies said doing so would also require Ottawa to fast-track emergency
funding to provinces dealing with the crisis and allow for the
creation of emergency hospital and clinics throughout the country.

Overdose prevention sites like those established by Vancouver Coastal
Health are currently unsanctioned and operating outside federal laws.

Criticism of the Liberals' response to the crisis has also come from

In January, Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, told The
Canadian Press the party needs "to be doing something about it faster
than we are doing it."

She suggested that a regional bias, albeit unintentional, might be at

"I think that it is that the whole country isn't suffering from the
same problem - it's B.C. and Alberta," Fry said. "It's not starting on
Ontario, and I would suggest to you that once it gets bad in Ontario,
we will notice action being taken."

During a visit to British Columbia earlier this month, Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau ruled out decriminalizing any other drugs beyond
marijuana to deal with overdose deaths.

"We are not planning on including any other illicit substances in the
move towards legalizing and controlling and regulating," he said.
"(The crisis) is an issue that we are taking very seriously and we
will continue to engage in."

- -with files from The Canadian Press
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MAP posted-by: Matt