- With 93 percent of delegates voting in favour of the resolution, the Conservatives adopted elements of the Alberta provincial government’s strategy for combating drug addiction.
- The Alberta model de-emphasizes “safe supply” policies, which involve the government providing substances to addicted persons to replace often fatally-toxic drugs purchased off the street.
- Conservative MP Stephen Ellis says the Liberal government’s support for “safe supply” has been ineffective, and that the Conservatives want drug and addiction policies to move in a new direction.
QUEBEC CITY — The Conservative Party may have a reputation for bickering and in-fighting but its members were able to find one area of overwhelming consensus at the party’s policy convention in Quebec City this weekend.
With 93 percent of delegates voting in favour of the resolution, the Conservatives almost unanimously decided to adopt elements of the Alberta provincial government’s strategy for combating drug addiction.
It was one of the largest margins at the convention and a big endorsement of a policy that has been polarizing in Alberta, but has attracted the support of Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre as he campaigns against disorder in Canadian cities.
Officially titled the “Alberta Model: A Recovery-Oriented System of Care,” the strategy emphasizes recovery through the use of long-term recovery facilities across the province to help addicts overcome their addiction.
The Alberta model de-emphasizes “safe supply” policies, which involve the government providing substances to addicted persons to replace often fatally-toxic drugs purchased off the street.
“The truth is that what we’re doing in Canada, and the way that we’ve been thinking as a society, about addiction for the last 20 years, has been a failure,” says Dan Williams, Alberta’s minister of mental health and addiction, in an interview with The Hub. “And we see that both in the data, the literature, but we can also see it with our own eyes.”
Williams attended the convention in support of the resolutions inspired by the Alberta model.
He says Canadians will have a choice between the Alberta model, or the “safe supply” model endorsed by the federal government, which he says has helped to perpetuate the rampant addiction and homelessness crisis in Vancouver.
“We know that addiction running its course has one of two ends,” says Williams. “It either ends in pain, misery, and with enough time, death, or the alternative is treatment, recovery and a second lease on life.”
The Alberta model is often presented in sharp contrast to the B.C. government’s approach, which has embraced “safe supply” policies to help combat the province’s long-standing and deteriorating rate of addiction. While “safe supply” has been praised by the B.C. government and federal Liberals as a viable strategy, the rate of addiction and drug-related deaths in the province has only increased since “safe supply” policies were enacted.
Julian Somers, a professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, says government activities, including policies regarding employment, foster care and housing, clearly influence addiction and other forms of mental illness.
Somers says the recovery-oriented systems of care can be used by governments to coordinate publicly-funded services to optimize prevention and promote recovery. These ideas are based on successes achieved in Switzerland and Portugal, he says.
Stephen Ellis, the Conservative MP for the Nova Scotia riding of Cumberland-Colchester and the party’s critic for health, says the Liberal government’s support for “safe supply” has been ineffective, and that the Conservatives want drug and addiction policies to move in a new direction.
“We know that there’s a dignity of person, and that those people have a life that they want to lead and passions that they want to pursue,” says Ellis “That’s the kind of compassionate conservatism that we want to show in Canada.”
In 2022, B.C. once again broke its record for annual drug-related deaths, after already breaking that record in 2021. Other cities like Toronto and Edmonton have been experiencing their own cases of rising homelessness and often fatal addiction.
“Twenty Canadians are dying every day as a result of overdoses, and of course, we know that that’s an unacceptable proposition for Canada,” says Ellis. “And we know that this has been an experiment, and we know that it’s a failed experiment.”
Richard Bragdon, the Conservative MP for the New Brunswick riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, praised jurisdictions like Alberta for their approach to addictions, which he says had been an “all hands on deck” approach.
“They are starting to implement some really good strategies towards tackling this and thinking outside the box and forming effective partnerships with NGOs, nonprofit organizations, (and) faith based communities,” says Bragdon. “The recovery model, we find, definitely has the best outcomes long term.”