Saturday, October 20, 2007

Conservatives "false" plan for a war on drugs

The Conservatives have been ramping up the rhetoric recently on drugs in Canada, discussing the need to get "tough" on the issue, and that, in the words of Tony Clement, "The party's over". While the Conservatives had attempt to frame the issue as one of "safer communities and families", an examination of the actual issues and policy shows that the Conservative plan is focused on things they want to do very badly: ignore urban voters and issues (because urban voters won't vote Conservative anyway) kowtow to social conservatives in the party, attempt to win over suburban voters (who generally haven't, but might start voting Conservative) and blatantly copy Republican Party style rhetoric that is short on results but long on soundbites about "toughness" and "leadership".

Perhaps the prime example is the issue of safe injection sites. Despite clear results of the benefits of supervised injection programs, Conservatives want to ignore "inconvenient truths" about harm reduction because it is harder to sell to the base, and, because it requires seeing issues like drug use and abuse in more than nuanced terms, is difficult for Conservatives to remove the black and white tinted glasses.

Former mayor of Vancouver mayor Philip Owen, who invested in, and saw results from, Vancouver's drug safe-injection site, has called the plan "uninformed". Considering Harper is an economist, one would have assumed he would understand issues like supply and demand, but the Conservatives seem to be taking a page out the NDP playbook by ignoring basic rules of economics. By locking up drug dealers, both minor and major, yes, supply can be affected. But demand will still exist, and given the lack of emphasis on harm reduction in the Conservative plan, all that can result is a destructive cycle that will lead to ever more amounts of tax dollars being thrown away, less safe communities, and the high paradox of US-style drug policies, more criminals convicted, but a more broken system. A heavy-handed, paternalistic, freedom endangering drug policy can do no good for anyone. Drug polices must take into consideration those on the front lines of the struggle against abuse, rather than political convenience, and the Conservatives are showing a lack of leadership, and failing Canadians in this regard.

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