Last week, the feds granted BC a 3-year exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act decriminalizing the possession of up to 2.5 grams of certain illegal drugs for personal use. Judging by Jason Kenney’s response, you’d think Breaking Bad had set up shop next door.
Leaving aside Kenney’s hypocritical claim that his government supports dealing with addiction as a healthcare issue, he made a number of unfounded allegations and fear mongering statements that came dangerously close to what historian Timothy Snyder describes as the language of tyrants.
He alleged the federal and BC governments were moving forward with an agenda to “normalize drug use by decriminalizing deadly and dangerous drugs” and that the exemption was “clearly a result of the Liberal-NDP coalition and was likely demanded by the NDP as a condition of the agreement.”
Unless Kenney bugged 7 Rideau Gate on March 14, he has no idea what Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh discussed. Furthermore while their agreement addressed healthcare issues (national pharmacare, dental care for low-income Canadians, fixing the healthcare system, ensuring seniors are safe in long term care facilities) it did not mention normalizing illicit drug use.
The exemption is not the result of a Liberal-NDP plot.
Kenney said Liberal-NDP policy resulted in “de-policing” cities like Vancouver which has led to rampant disorder, crime, drug use and death.
Vancouver increased its police budget from $317 million in 2019 to $367 million in 2022. The VPD’s budget represents 21% of Vancouver’s overall budget. This is significantly higher than Calgary’s police budget (16% of the overall budget) and Edmonton’s police budget (15% of the overall budget). Also, it’s city councils, not the provincial or federal governments, who set policing budgets.
There is no Liberal-NDP policy aimed at de-policing.
Trumped up “evidence”
Kenney claimed “decriminalizing drugs will have no significant effect on the overdose crisis” because since 2017 fewer than 5 people who were convicted of simple possession and sent to a provincial correctional centre died of an opioid overdose within two years of their incarceration.*
The latest government numbers show that from 2017 to the end of 2021 there were 5250 accidental opioid poisoning deaths. Given that the Chief Medical Examiner is reviewing some of the drug poisonings recorded in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 and has warned the final numbers may change one wonders how Kenney could be certain that only 5 of the 5250 who died had served two years or less in a provincial correctional centre within two years of the day they overdosed.
Furthermore, Kenney offered no explanation as to why this was relevant.
Kenney’s statement does not appear to be relevant or founded on good data.
Kenney complained the feds didn’t consult with Alberta on the “decriminalization of drugs.”
Why should they? This was BC’s effort to address its opioid crisis.
Furthermore, Alberta could have objected in Nov 2021 when BC requested the exemption. It didn’t; perhaps because Kenney was too busy trying to save his job after the Worst Fall Ever.
This has nothing to do with Kenney or his government.
Kenney declared his government “will never allow our communities to become sanctuaries for cartels and drug traffickers.” He promised to monitor the situation and to “exhaust all options” if the exemption caused damage to Albertans.
Just what is Kenney going to do? Create an Alberta border control team to keep cartels and traffickers from sneaking into Alberta?
There is no reason why the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs in BC will create safe havens for drug traffickers and cartels in Alberta.
It’s someone else’s fault
After trashing the exemption with every cockamamie argument he could muster Kenney condemned the feds for failing to beef up the Canadian Border Services Agency to stop the flow of drugs manufactured in “black market labs and trafficked into Canada by criminals and cartels.”
From 2017 to the end of 2021 the quantity of illicit opioids seized by Canadian Border Services more than doubled, from 525,858 grams to 1,246,826 grams.
The fed’s have improved their ability to block the flow of drugs from the US into Canada.
Kenney’s statement was inflammatory. It hinted at a political conspiracy and hidden agendas that would harm Albertans. The language (cartels, black market labs, drug traffickers, de-policing) was the language of fear. It was coupled with the tyrant’s assurance that he would protect the people from an amorphous danger being inflected upon them by others.
It was a bizarre dog whistle from yesterday’s man.
Albertans deserve better.
*I think that’s what he said, this part of the press release was so garbled it made no sense whatsoever.