Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the province must do more to deal with methamphetamine addiction.
Kinew met Wednesday with Finance Minister Cameron Friesen to present a wish list for the 2018 budget, citing drug addiction – and particularly meth – among his top concerns.
"What we’re asking is for the province to take immediate action to combat methamphetamine use because it seems like every day there’s another story... about families being impacted and hurt by this scourge," he said.
"People are dying. We have to do better."
Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth has also raised concerns about methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth and speed. Last fall, Smyth cited the drug as a factor in a spate of police-involved shootings in the city, saying users can display "wild behaviour."
Kinew said thousands of Manitobans are affected by the drug. He said when he was a young man, he watched good friends and close relatives either lose their lives or see their potential wasted because of addiction to meth.
"I watched them lose the promise that they had to get an education and to get a good life for themselves," he told reporters.
Kinew has spoken previously about battling alcohol addiction in the past.
"I know that I was given a second chance by having a strong community around me and a strong basis of support. I feel a lot of compassion for other people who don’t get that second chance that they deserve," he said.
While private treatment options exist for meth addicts, some families cannot afford the cost. That's why the province needs to do more, either directly or in co-operation with private agencies, he said.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said work is underway to develop a mental health and addiction strategy to improve the access and coordination of services in Manitoba. Recommendations are expected in the coming months, she said.
"Building upon our experience with opioid addiction, Manitoba’s work on methamphetamine will focus on the development of processes and team work to address challenges with withdrawal management, detoxification and treatment, in order to reduce risks to clients and staff who are working with these individuals," the spokeswoman said in an email.
"This will also involve community partners such as police in the provision of services as well as prevention, education and awareness."
Kinew said while he had the finance minister's ear, he also pushed for a new recreation centre for south Winnipeg, a northern jobs plan to keep people working in the resource sector, and the continuance of the film and video production tax credit. He said he also called on the provincial government to ensure education funding increases by at least the rate of economic growth.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.