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'Irresponsible populist nonsense': Addictions minister calls out Poilievre over drug policy

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Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett says Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre's comments about safe drug consumptions sites are "irresponsible" and "misguided."

Her comments come after Poilievre released a video Sunday titled “Everything feels broken,” in which he says safe consumptions programs need to be defunded, because they lead to “massive” increases in overdoses and crimes.

“The addictions that we see, that have terrorized these people and our communities, they are the result of a failed experiment,” Poilievre says in the five-minute video, filmed in front of a tent city in Vancouver. “This is a deliberate policy by woke Liberal and NDP governments to provide taxpayer funded drugs, flood our streets with easy access to these poisons.”

Poilievre says in the video resources should instead go to border enforcement, taking a tougher stance on repeat offenders who are “preying on addicts,” and defunding drug programs under the “so-called and ironically named idea of safe supply.”

Poilievre asserts the focus should be on recovery programs.

On her way into a cabinet meeting Tuesday, Bennett told reporters she thinks Poilievre’s comments are “just irresponsible populist nonsense.”

“I think all of the evidence shows what we're doing is not enough. We've got to go further, but it is saving lives,” she also said. “And I think a lot of us are furious.”

Bennett said the Liberal government has spent years building up harm-reduction programs the former Conservative government cut.

“There is no recovery model for people who are dead,” she said. “We have to meet people where they are, and it's an ideology that is totally misguided and it's just upsetting.”

She also took to Twitter in response to Poilievre’s video — which has nearly 600,000 views, between Poilievre’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, as of Tuesday afternoon — particularly his assertion that “there is no safe supply of these drugs.”

“This is not true,” Bennett tweeted. “Pushing this view on harm reduction during a toxic drug and overdose crisis is irresponsible. Supervised consumption sites have reversed 41K overdoses since 2017 without one death.”

“The evidence is clear on this. Safe supply saves lives. We cannot afford to return to damaging, unscientific ideology at the expense of people’s lives,” she also wrote.

Other MPs have also heavily criticized Poilievre’s video, including Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, and NDP MP Leah Gazan.

“I felt sick watching Pierre Poilievre’s recent video about the opioid crisis,” Gazan wrote on Twitter. “He dehumanizes people who use drugs, and offers nothing but old, failed ideas that have caused so much harm.”

“Instead of trying to understand the problem, he exploits it for his own political gain,” she wrote.

Gazan added that Poilievre’s video, filmed in front of a tent city, does not address the housing crisis.

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