Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to a challenging issue, and one that has affected the lives of too many Canadians across our great country. After eight years of this Prime Minister, everything just feels broken. Life costs more. Work does not pay. Housing costs have doubled. The Prime Minister divides to control the people and, worst of all, crime, chaos, drugs and disorder rage in our streets.
Nowhere is this worse than the opioid overdose crisis that has expanded so dramatically in the last several years. The opioid crisis has now killed over 35,000 of our loved ones since 2016. Six individuals have succumbed to overdoses in my hometown of Swift Current, with two very recently, of fentanyl, just within the past couple of months.
This is tragic. This crisis has claimed the lives of too many Canadians. It will continue to do so if we as legislators cannot work collaboratively to enact policies that will help reduce both the supply and the demand of these highly powerful, highly addictive taxpayer-funded drugs.
It is clear that current policies implemented by the Liberal government to combat this issue are not working. Since 2017, the federal government has spent over $800 million on its failed Canadian drugs and substances strategy, including over $100 million in funding for hard drugs supply projects across Canada, and plans to spend an additional $74 million to scale up these projects over the next five years.
We might ask what we have to show for this huge investment. Have the trends reversed? Are our loved ones coming home drug-free?
Let us look at the facts. Since tax-funded drug supply was ramped up in 2020, opioid deaths have only gone up, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. In 2020, slightly fewer than 7,000 people died of opioid overdoses, while only 3,000 died of overdoses in 2016, according to the Library of Parliament.
It is clear that the Liberals' policies are not working and pumping taxpayers' money into funding these drugs is not solving the problem. This begs the question, what is the government hiding?
I look forward to a response from the members opposite, and maybe, when I split my time with the member for Foothills, they will enlighten him as to what is happening.
Ultimately, this issue is one about hope. We need to offer hope to our friends, families, neighbours, fellow Canadians and especially those who find themselves addicted to these substances and feel unable to free themselves from the grip of addiction.
I would ask the House: if someone is struggling with addiction, what message does it send them to offer them more of these hard drugs? Does that send a message of hope to these individuals or are we saying that we have given up on them?
At its root, funding these hard drugs is an inference that we believe that they may be unable to overcome these addictions.
We know that this is not true. There are incredible stories of Canadians across the country who have found themselves at their lowest, despairing of ever being able to free themselves from the bondage of drug addiction, and yet their stories of recovery are powerful stories of hope.
If we asked them how they recovered, the answer would not be one of safe supply programs by the government. It is about recovering in addiction treatment and recovery programs. I had a constituent reach out to me and tell me about a family member who has struggled with addiction. For this person, it started as an early teen with marijuana and quickly escalated to other substances like cocaine and morphine.
It was treatment that was available. It was not safe supply that was able to get this person the help that they needed to be able to finish high school, and not only finish high school but graduate with honours and even win a provincial academic award. That is the story.
That is hope. That is hope that has been realized.
I also spoke with an organization that works with at-risk youth, and there is an individual who came to work there who had previously dealt with an addiction in his life. He was using his lived experience to help the youth there, to hopefully prevent them from doing what he did and going through what he had gone through.
Unfortunately, this person had a relapse when he was back home and ended up taking fentanyl for the first time in his life. It took eight days for him to be able to detox from taking fentanyl one time.
The Liberals' plan is not to prevent people like this from getting their hands on drugs, it is quite the opposite, it is to put drugs in their hands, and to make drugs more accessible. I used to work for a telecommunications company in a community that had a methadone clinic because of the high volume of drug users in the area. I would regularly come across needles in the back alleys where I was working. It was an occupational safety hazard, to say the least.
Many people there had large dogs in their yards to ward off the would-be thieves looking to steal things to sell for drug money. One day I was working in someone's basement, running a telephone line. As I was running the wire, I threw a bundle up over the top of the cold air return. As the wire came over the other side, I gave it a pull to get the rest of the wire. I was standing underneath the cold air return, thankfully, because four needles fell. Three of them landed on the floor and one of them must have bounced off the wire and then bounced off my shoulder before it hit the floor. That was something that I did not expect to have happen. I certainly did not go into that day looking to encounter that on the job site.
I have also been in many houses and apartments where it was clear that people were functioning addicts. They were uneasy. There was a look of hopelessness on their faces. Perpetuating that with more government drugs is not the way to offer those people hope. These people are just trying to get through another day. They are trying to get through another hour. In some cases, it might even be another minute. This gets to my key point. Where is the hope for these people?
The government has done a lot of things, but all the things that it is doing only contribute further to the problem. It is contributing to the state of homelessness. Many of these people, because of what the government has done, are turning to drugs and hard drugs. They are losing their homes, they are losing their jobs, they are ending up on the streets. This perpetuates where people are and what the stats are showing about where people end up.
That is why Conservatives are calling for the government to immediately reverse its deadly policies and redirect all funds from taxpayer-funded hard drug programs to addiction treatment and recovery programs. Let us think about the amount of money going into supplying these deadly substances and how those same funds could be channelled into recovery programs that have a proven track record of helping Canadians overcome their addictions.
I think it is safe to say we would be in a much better place today if our attention was placed on recovery. Above and beyond that, we also need to look at an upstream approach to this issue. We have to come to a point in our history as a society where we must ask, why is it that our neighbours and friends are seeking out these deadly substances? What is the root of the hurt and despair that is fuelling these addictions at an unprecedented rate? What is driving them to seek out drugs? Where have we failed our brothers, sisters, neighbours and family members in their efforts to find meaning and fulfillment in their lives?
I have always believed that family is the foundation of society. While we work to reduce addictions, we must also work to ensure that the very foundation of society is preserved. We must ensure that children are growing up in safe and secure homes, where they learn the value of important things in life, and where they find the meaning and fulfillment in life.
Modern medicine always encourages us to look at the root of the problem to find the upstream approach to health, and to examine the social determinants of health. While we work to combat the issue of addiction, we must also look at the root cause, and keep our loved ones from turning to these hard drugs in the first place. Every life lost to an overdose is one too many. These people are loved, and we owe it to them to offer them hope in the midst of despair.
I started my speech by saying we must work collaboratively on this issue, and I will say it again. Human life, every single life, is too valuable. There is too much at stake. Let us get this issue right for the sake of our children and for the sake of our future generations.
Let us bring it home.