Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre misdiagnoses the opioid crisis in the latest video, “Everything Feels Broken.”
In the five-minute video, Poilievre uses a Vancouver tent city as his backdrop to make a case for the drug war.
For a decade, British Columbia (among other Canadian cities) has provided a clean, safe supply of drugs for the addicted.
He calls it a “failed experiment” brought in by “woke Liberal and NDP governments,” before saying he’ll end this policy and instead put taxpayers’ money into recovery and treatment.
The narrative is easy to follow: there is a correlation between safe supply sites and opioid deaths. Ergo, one caused the other.
Unfortunately, data doesn’t support this narrative. Nor does the data support Poilievre’s claim that Alberta‘s anti-drug policy has worked better.
(In fact, how Alberta deals with opioids isn’t all that different from the rest of the country, including having safe supply sites in Edmonton and Calgary).
But if you want to critique Poilievre’s video, there are plenty of articles on this topic.
Most critics, however, defend safe supply sites, claim compassion for addicts, and, far from engaging with Poilievre on his ideas, merely parrot federal Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett by calling the video “irresponsible” and “misguided.”
Pierre Poilievre is wrong about the cause of drug overdose deaths in Canada. And, like his critics, he’s also wrong about throwing money at “treatment and recovery.”
Just as his critics are wrong that taxpayer-funded “safe supply” is the way out of the crisis.
How Poilievre (And his Critics) Misdiagnose the Opioid Crisis
When Poilievre misdiagnoses the opioid crisis, it comes from a place of politics. His goal is to acquire Justin Trudeau’s PMO power, which has significantly increased since the Harper years.
Especially since a decade of “safe supply” hasn’t produced immediate results.
Now, critics are right to point out that, in B.C., over 80% of overdoses don’t occur in the street but in a private residence or shelter. The problem is less about homeless people dying in the streets than the toxicity of street drugs.
That’s why safe supply sites work, say the supporters.
And Poilievre isn’t opposed to using taxpayer money to fund treatment policies. He disagrees with the means.
But in a discussion about Poilievre’s “Everything Feels Broken” video, almost no one has mentioned the elephant in the room: the corporate pharmaceutical conglomerates.
They caused the opioid crisis and profit from supplying methadone and Suboxone to safe supply sites.
Poilievre critics would be wise to stop with the surface-level attacks and get to the core of the issue. And Poilievre’s supporters would be wise to question their leader’s motives and proposed solutions.
If you want a villain, look no further than McKinsey & Company.
How McKinsey & Company Caused the Opioid Crisis
McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm. They’ve been around since the 1920s and are considered one of the “Big Three” consulting agencies worldwide.
They’ve also been involved in many controversies, from Enron, the ’08 financial crisis, insider trading, conflicts of interest, and associations with murderous dictators, including Saudi Arabia.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise they’ve played a role in the opioid epidemic.
McKinsey & Company wanted to “turbocharge” Oxycontin sales. They proposed strategies to combat the messages from real parents who lost their children to Oxy overdoses.
They also advised opioid makers on how to circumvent government regulations.
They’re the type of firm to crunch the numbers and figure out that it’s cheaper to pay $36.8 million to the families who’ve lost someone from an overdose than to stop selling the toxic crap.
In 2018/19, McKinsey & Company collected over $400 million by consulting pharmaceutical companies.
McKinsey’s services turned Endo from a small generic opioid manufacturer to one of the world’s largest opioid businesses.
McKinsey also recommended targeting and influencing doctors. They wanted elderly and long-term care patients hooked on opioids.
They’re staffed by a revolving door of consultants who either come from (or go on to work for) government regulators like the FDA and pharmaceutical clients like Purdue.
Purdue Pharma went into bankruptcy and had to pay a multi-billion-dollar settlement because it “intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet” the over-prescribing of painkillers “without a legitimate medical purpose.”
The idiom “the fox is guarding the henhouse,” has never been more relevant.
Poilievre spends five minutes criticizing his political opponents instead of the corporate-state cartel that has brought us to this point. That’s when you know Poilievre is misdiagnosing the opioid crisis.
Poilievre Misdiagnoses Opioid Crisis
While Poilievre misdiagnoses the opioid crisis, he does mention in passing the doctors who “prescribed and over-prescribed,” opioids.
For someone who goes on about gatekeepers, you’d think Poilievre could put two and two together. Yet, this was far as he went with that line of criticism.
If Poilievre wants to go after Justin Trudeau, why not point out that our blackface PM made a McKinsey crony (Dominic Barton) Canada’s ambassador to China in 2019?
(Although, in Justin’s defence, you could argue that dealing with a murderous regime that doesn’t believe in the sanctity of human life requires an ambassador who feels the same way).
Like most of Poilievre’s critiques of government, he misdiagnoses the opioid crisis by not going deeper into the issue and pointing fingers at his political opposition instead of the merging of corporate and state power.
And why would he?
Like Liberal and NDP governments, Conservatives adhere to lobbying concerns more than their constituents.
And when constituents get rowdy, like organizing an occupation in the nation’s capital, the corporate press is there to propagate a narrative that fools the masses and protects the financial interests of the elite.
That’s where critics on both sides fail to grasp the nature of the opioid crisis. Not only did pharmaceutical corporations cause this crisis (with help from the state), but they also profit from the proposed “solutions,” including safe supply.
So what’s the answer?
How Poilievre Can Reverse His Misdiagnoses of the Opioid Crisis
In his “Everything feels broken” video, where Poilievre misdiagnoses the opioid crisis, he proposes statist solutions like toughening security at the border to keep illegal drugs out of the country.
That’s obviously unrealistic. You’d have to claim complete ignorance of the global fentanyl trade to believe “strengthening the border” would work.
Further, Poilievre says, “There is no safe supply of these drugs.”
Indicating that even if we rid the country of killer opioids like fentanyl and carfentanyl, we’d still have a drug problem.
As if the mere existence of an opioid is enough to justify the drug war.
You won’t find the correct solution from Poilievre’s brand of quasi-libertarian politics. And you won’t find an answer from the various left-wing parties who have never found a problem more government spending couldn’t fix.
Politicians know who butters their bread. Additionally, cultural norms and attitudes about drugs shape our thinking.
But no matter how you slice it: no one has a right to your body except you.
Taken to its logical conclusion, someone throwing you in a cage for consuming opioids is an aggressor and a tyrant.
Meaning, the solution to Canada’s opioid crisis is to legalize heroin.
Legalizing “Hard” Drugs
Is there a difference between “hard” drugs like heroin and “soft” drugs like cannabis? Is one more addictive than the other? What about alcohol? Is that a “hard” or “soft” drug?
Perhaps the distinction itself is arbitrary.
Some drugs are more dangerous than others. Just as riding a motorcycle is more dangerous than driving a car.
Too much of our conversation surrounding drugs, especially opioids, is wrapped up in language about “losing control” and “involuntarily behaviour.”
But this narrative is entirely false. Just as there are responsible cannabis consumers, there are responsible opioid consumers.
Problems arise when people behave according to the ideas they have about drugs. No one is living on the street and committing crimes to get their hands on refined sugar.
But if you limit the supply of the sweet stuff, I can guarantee you societal chaos is around the corner.
A refined sugar prohibition would incentive an illegal supply of sugar. And cutting that white powder with non-sugar is a sketchy but efficient way to boost profits.
Would the solution be to put sugar addicts into rehab centres where they lose whatever autonomy they have left?
Or would the solution be to set up clinics where the people jonesing the hardest could go for a safe supply?
Or is the solution legalizing all sugar and letting individuals decide what is best for them?
Poilievre misdiagnoses opioid crisis. But so do his critics. The answer is obvious. It’s only drug war propaganda that keeps us from seeing it.