The one scandal that should be on all our minds (and isn't)

There is one scandal in Alberta right now that demands all of our attention. It doesn’t have anything to do with sky palaces. Brian Jean isn’t in it. There won’t be a referendum on it. And while the columnists and pundits seem to have all the time in the world for those gaffes and stunts, this issue is getting pushed to the back burner.

I would describe it as Alberta’s most pressing and severe crisis. I would say that every day that passes with things the way they are currently is a cruel, brutal injustice. And outrageously, that opinion probably puts me in the minority.

You might think it would have been cause for alarm when three men were found dead in a park in Edmonton a few weeks ago, but by today they seem to have already been forgotten. There has been a terrible inflection point in our already grim struggle with the opioid overdose crisis. All across western Canada, there are reports of a surge in the toxicity of the street drug supply—fentanyl and carfentanil are showing up in everything. And that everything includes the stats. In BC and Alberta overdoses and deaths have been spiking far above historical rates since late April, and those historical rates were pretty horrible to begin with. Big spikes, 50% or more in some regions, adding up to hundreds of deaths.

Image via Milan Ilnyckyj

The UCP government is making this terrible situation even worse by obstructing and defunding supervised consumption sites. The conservative movement has been viciously opposed to harm reduction services for people with addictions for a long time, now. Back when the modern harm reduction model was first being worked out in InSite, in Vancouver, Harper and the federal conservatives adopted a sort of Southern Strategy in regards to the issue, pandering to the cruel and the prejudiced with spiteful policies that blocked access to care and in many cases left people dead. And here is our Premier, former Harper cabinet minister Jason Kenney, keeping up the tradition by obstructing and defunding Alberta’s overdose prevention sites.

1151 Albertans were killed by opioid poisoning last year, that's 3 three people a day, and it’s only getting worse. “The fentanyl problem isn’t going away,” warns professor Andrew Greenshaw from the University of Alberta, citing a staggering 118% increase in deaths since the UCP started closing down overdose prevention services. It’s time that we demanded the UCP stop their insane crusade against health care for people who have addictions. Jason Kenney’s rants may be offensive, and his gaffes may get on our nerves, but this project of his is killing Albertans. It’s killing us every day. And that’s the real story right now.


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