January 23, 2019

Winnipeg
-12° C, Light snow

Full Forecast

Blame game pointless in meth battle

Editorial

There comes a time — or, perhaps, an issue — in the life of every government when it no longer has the luxury of blaming its challenges, woes and inadequacies on the government that preceded it.

For Premier Brian Pallister, the time has arrived, and the issue is the escalating crisis surrounding crystal methamphetamine abuse and addiction. And as this week’s revelations regarding an alarming increase in blood-borne diseases related to needle sharing by drug users illustrate, it is the Pallister government that must take ownership of what health officials have described as a “lack of provincial leadership.”

On Tuesday, the New Democrats released documents, obtained under freedom-of-information laws, which reveal a marked increase in the incidence of diseases — most notably hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis — that are almost exclusively linked to injection drug use. According to one briefing note from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), the current syphilis outbreak is “the highest number ever recorded” in this health region.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew noted that the blood-disease revelation signals a troublesome shift in a problem that seems to intensify with each passing day. “These documents show that the meth crisis in Winnipeg is now becoming a public health crisis,” he said, adding that the spread of blood-borne diseases is in indicator that the issue is no longer confined to drug users and has begun to spread into the broader population.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

There comes a time — or, perhaps, an issue — in the life of every government when it no longer has the luxury of blaming its challenges, woes and inadequacies on the government that preceded it.

For Premier Brian Pallister, the time has arrived, and the issue is the escalating crisis surrounding crystal methamphetamine abuse and addiction. And as this week’s revelations regarding an alarming increase in blood-borne diseases related to needle sharing by drug users illustrate, it is the Pallister government that must take ownership of what health officials have described as a "lack of provincial leadership."

The NDP released documents which reveal a marked increase in the incidence of diseases — most notably hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis — that are almost exclusively linked to injection drug use

On Tuesday, the New Democrats released documents, obtained under freedom-of-information laws, which reveal a marked increase in the incidence of diseases — most notably hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis — that are almost exclusively linked to injection drug use. According to one briefing note from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), the current syphilis outbreak is "the highest number ever recorded" in this health region.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew noted that the blood-disease revelation signals a troublesome shift in a problem that seems to intensify with each passing day. "These documents show that the meth crisis in Winnipeg is now becoming a public health crisis," he said, adding that the spread of blood-borne diseases is in indicator that the issue is no longer confined to drug users and has begun to spread into the broader population.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen disputed the relevance of some of the documents, calling the WRHA briefing note a "historical document" and insisting that much has changed since some of the documents released by the NDP were produced.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen disputed the relevance of some of the documents. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

Health Minister Cameron Friesen disputed the relevance of some of the documents. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

Three things are evident in the aftermath of the NDP’s dissemination of damning documents:

First: that while the Pallister government is taking action to address the meth crisis — as evidenced by its participation last week in a federal/provincial announcement that an additional $8.4 million will be dedicated to fighting meth addiction — those actions seem woefully inadequate given the magnitude of the problem.

Second: that while the provincial PCs cannot blame the meth crisis on their NDP predecessors, they are also not to blame for the meth epidemic. This is a scourge that defies political boundaries, and any hope of addressing it will require a multi-layered, multidisciplinary approach that crosses party lines and transcends levels of governance, and is willing to give serious consideration to any reasonable idea that might contribute to efforts to slow meth’s advance.

The NDP’s document dive is useful because it keeps the meth issue front and centre at a time when Mr. Pallister seems at times inclined to direct his energies toward less-urgent issues

Third: that the NDP would be wise not to consider this issue an opportunity to score political points — the meth crisis was going to arrive when it did, in this community and others, regardless of the inclination of the government of the day. It’s only because of the much-deserved trouncing it received in the last provincial election that the NDP finds itself pointing out the PCs’ meth-related failings rather than pondering its own inability to rein in the rampaging crisis.

The NDP’s document dive is useful because it keeps the meth issue front and centre at a time when Mr. Pallister seems at times inclined to direct his energies toward less-urgent issues — interprovincial trade barriers, deficit reduction and the ongoing pursuit of a PST reduction, anyone? — that offer greater chances of a political-points victory.

Whether he likes it or not, however, his government’s handling of this issue will largely determine his political legacy. There’s no margin for a continuing lack of provincial leadership. Mr. Pallister needs to focus on the defining issue of his career: meth.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.