BC Liberals need to deliver a consistent message on drug sites

BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon clarified comments made by a member of his caucus when she said that safe injection sites were a bad idea.

Teresa Wat, BC Liberal MLA for Richmond, said in a local TV interview in Mandarin: “We are very against it, the so-called safe injection sites. All drugs are harmful to health.”

image: The Lancet

Wat later apologized for her comments, saying she misrepresented the provincial Liberals’ new recovery-focused plan to stop the toxic drug crisis, which is killing about six people a day in British Columbia.

Kevin Falcon made it clear that his party supports safe injection sites.

Wat’s comments point to a problem that the BC Liberal party faces -it’s not really a liberal party. With that in mind they plan to re-label the party as “BC United.”

Having a shared name as the Liberal Party of Canada has caused confusion, especially during election years.

The BC Liberal party is a hybrid; it’s not exactly Conservative either.

When he was provincial health minister in 2010, Falcon criticized the federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper for its “ideological” fight to shut down Vancouver’s first supervised injection site, InSite.

At times, the BC Liberal party is liberal.

In 2008, the BC Liberals introduced the country’s first carbon tax. It was praised internationally as proof that a carbon tax could both reduce consumption of fossil fuels and be revenue neutral.

The hybrid BC Liberals balanced that progressive carbon tax by a regressive tax cut taxes.

Teresa Wat’s represents an ultra-conservative view held by many BC Liberals. That view is also expressed by federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.

Commenting in B.C.’s decriminalization of drugs, Poilievre says: “The results are in. The debate is over. It has been a disaster, an absolute, abject failure.”

Poilievre doesn’t seem to care that that he is alienating potential voters when he uses Vancouver’s most vulnerable as a backdrop to his political diatribe.

“You now only need to take a walk down the streets of East Vancouver where addicts lay face first on the pavement, where people are living permanently in tents and encampments. It is hell on Earth,” says Poilievre.

Poilievre doesn’t even care that maligns the citizens of East Vancouver. What’s he’s talking about is Downtown Eastside.

As a lobbyist for the legalization of cannabis five decades ago, I’m familiar with the conflation of legality and permissiveness that Wat expresses. The mistaken notion is that legalization of drugs equals the endorsement of drugs; that making drugs legal grants permission to use them.

The fear of legalization and decriminalization of drugs is a debunked conservative thought. Wat expresses that misguided fear when she says: “All drugs are harmful to health.”

Of course toxic drugs are harmful to health. You only need criminalization to see just how harmful they are.

In response to Poilievre’s “hell on Earth” comment, Vancouver mayor Ken Sim said: “These comments are neither appropriate nor constructive. We do not support anyone using our most vulnerable residents to advance a political agenda.”

Poilievre seems to be willing to alienate thoughtful voters in B.C. Kevin Falcon can’t afford to let the conservative element of his party do the same.


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