TimminsToday asked each of the federal candidates in Timmins-James Bay a series of six questions. The following responses were submitted by the candidates and/or their campaigns. The answers have not been checked for accuracy; they represent the candidate’s platforms and opinions. External links have been removed.
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Q: There is an opioid crisis in Timmins-James Bay and across Canada. How will you address the crisis in the short and long term?
Charlie Angus, NDP: I have been involved in the issues surrounding the opioid crisis in the north and have been a consistent voice in Parliament for action. In 2008, I helped establish the first oxycontin task force in Timmins. I helped spearhead the fentanyl patch taskforce when fentanyl first appeared.
This past year I worked with the City and Mushkegowuk to get funding for the Firekeeper’s Proposal that will keep people safe in the downtown. There isn’t another program like it in Canada.
New Democrats will declare the opioid crisis a national medical emergency. We will bring the federal government to the table in adding supports for mental health and treatment.
Given the immensity of the crisis will require new thinking. We need to stop treating the addicts as criminals and support them as people needing medical help. This means discussing safe supply to keep people alive and it requires the tools to go after the fentanyl gangs and illegal labs. We also need to go after the big pharma giants who promoted and sold these poisons when they knew the damage it was doing to our loved ones and communities.
Steve Black, Liberal: In 2020, there were over 6,200 opioid overdose deaths in Canada. In Northern Ontario, our opioid overdose rates are among the highest in the country. This is an area of critical importance to me and I believe the government needs to take significant action to address this health crisis. According to a 2020 report from Ontario’s Coroner, 86 per cent of opioid overdoses involved fentanyl. The government and justice system need to take a much stronger approach when it comes to the dealers putting fentanyl on the streets.
At the same time, we need to provide the support and treatment options required to help people who are suffering from addictions. These services are even less available for our remote Indigenous communities. We need to work together with all levels of government to get the resources and supports where and when they are needed. Here in Timmins-James Bay, we require a full-scale regional treatment centre capable of providing the full wraparound services required including mental health, addictions and housing support. We simply cannot afford be left on the sidelines anymore! It is time for Timmins-James Bay to have someone who will fight for the funding and programs needed to make change!
Morgan Ellerton, Conservative: Addressing this crisis is no easy task. The opioid crisis is the result of mismanagement of resources that has been compounded by the pandemic. I experienced first-hand many people struggling with addiction and being displaced from their treatment centre due to an inability of the centre to be flexible and to manage the treatment of the addiction inside of an outbreak. Lives were lost because of these closures. Working with the crisis team, I attended overdoses daily and worked with exhausted emergency personnel who were further discouraged by the inability to gain access to treatment for their clients.
Timmins-James Bay is in desperate need of its own detox facility, and I intend on delivering this much-needed resource. My passion for addressing this crisis comes from my daily struggle to make a difference in my patient’s lives. By training mental health professionals, we can address the underlying trauma that exists which will assist the person experiencing a struggle with addiction the opportunity to fully recover. It is unacceptable to turn people away in their time of need; it is time to start treating mental health as health and afford it the immediacy it requires.
Stephen MacLeod, PPC: The opioid crisis is rampant not only here in the north but also widespread across this country. Did you know that Canada is one of the top countries that spend the most on health care systems? Ottawa spent around $43 billion so far for 2021 but what do we really have to show for it besides being well known for its distinction of having the worst wait times of any developed country? This includes waiting lists to get into addiction centres not just hospitals. The issue I want to bring to light is that these addiction centres do nothing more than put a bandaid on an issue without fixing the root cause. They get them clean, and send them back to the same circumstances that led them to the drug to begin with. We need to get them more help beyond the centres, get them working and improve their mental state and give them some self worth again. We need to stop arresting the dealers just to let them out on bail to do it over and over again. I vow to fight for stricter penalties for these dealers and to change charges from just possession to those of attempted murder as that's truly what this is leading to.