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Simcoe-Grey candidates weigh-in on opioid crisis

Simcoe-Grey federal election candidates respond to questions about how they would approach the opioid crisis in Canada

The opioid crisis has resulted in the deaths of more than 12,800 people across Canada since 2016. Of those, 4,588 occurred in 2018, meaning one life lost in Canada every two hours.

Health Canada states on its website the “growing number of overdoses and death caused by opioids, including fentanyl, is a public health emergency.”

In Ontario, there were 629 opioid-related deaths in the first half of 2018, according to the provincial Office of the Chief Coroner. In 2017, there were 1,265 opioid-related deaths, a 246 per cent increase since 2003.

In Simcoe County, there are about 50 deaths and more than 200 emergency room visits per year related to opioid use.

CollingwoodToday asked each of the Simcoe-Grey federal election what they will do to address the opioid crisis and reduce the number of people dying of overdoses in Simcoe-Grey.

Here are their responses:

Terry Dowdall, Conservative

Canada, and Simcoe-Grey, are experiencing an addictions crisis and many people are dying due to an opioid overdose. We need a comprehensive response.

Given the opportunity and appropriate supports, in more than one area, people that suffer from addiction can recover. We need to work toward building a system of care where everyone who struggles with addiction is offered treatment and a pathway to recovery.

Local consultation with partner agencies and those involved in social supports, as well as those directly impacted, can help to determine a path forward in a strategic manner. The appropriate funding and supports can be determined after listening to the different viewpoints and suggestions, and once a proper plan is adopted.

Ilona Matthews, NDP

We will declare a national public health emergency. We will legalize and fund overdose prevention sites so that they can have the resources they need with additional resources for treatment so that those struggling from addiction can have access to treatment on demand.

We will investigate and hold manufacturers responsible to get to the root of the problem.

We will de-criminalize addiction and, instead, adopt a healthcare approach, including looking at the Portuguese model which has been proven to work.

We need to ensure that we have enough accessible prevention sites and health professionals in Simcoe County to handle these emergencies. If not, I will fight to provide adequate numbers of these sites.

Sherri Jackson, Green

I agree that the opioid crisis must be addressed seriously.

The opioid crisis isn't a criminal issue – it's a health care issue. Greens will declare a national health emergency to target the opioid crisis.

The deaths due to fentanyl are more aptly described as poisonings than overdoses – fentanyl is killing hundreds of Canadians a year, and it is an epidemic that must be acted upon.

We will provide increased funding to community-based organizations to test drugs and make naloxone kits more widely available.

We also need to look at the reasons why people are turning to opioids – mental health issues, anxiety, and depression are just some of those reasons. And we need to add mental health treatment to our health care system.

Lorne Kenney, Liberal

I have been haunted by this problem ever since meeting a young woman from Stayner, a recent graduate of Stayner Collegiate Institute, who told me that three of her classmates were now dead from opioid overdoses.

It is, without question, the greatest public health crisis since the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It alone is reducing life expectancies in our country.

To address the issue, we need real cooperation with the Province of Ontario to expand community-based services, build more in-patient rehab facilities, enable safe consumption sites and other similar approaches.

Anything that would help users get quick access to treatment, including drug treatment options for those non-violent offenders facing simple possession charges.

Personally, I think we need to look long and hard at decriminalizing simple possession. However, we also need far better and more effective enforcement of the prescription regimes that enable this trade to flourish. This has to stop.

We also need to think of our first-responders – firefighters and police. For them, this crisis is terrible. They often rescue the same person two or three times. Their efforts are unrewarded when the person overdoses once again and they are late arriving. Situations like this are putting them at risk for PTSD as these are always tragic situations for them to face.

Richard Sommer, People’s Party of Canada

Opioids are a provincial matter. However, we can hold the doctors accountable for giving out too much. Most opioids are prescribed after an injury or surgery. We see the need to add support for mental health care.

Tony D’Angelo, Veteran’s Coalition Party

I have had personal experience with family members dealing with opioid addiction and dependency issues. I know firsthand the struggles addicts face on their long road to recovery. 

I would like to see an increased awareness of the crisis. Also larger outreach programs for those seeking help. Further to that, we need to find ways to control those producing, distributing and prescribing opioids and make them accountable. 


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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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