BTC: Imaginary government


From the Globe’s Andre Picard in Mexico City.

Ottawa is determined to shut down Vancouver’s safe-injection site because it’s necessary to “draw a line” about which public health measures are acceptable, Canada’s Health Minister says.

Tony Clement said that while the government supports needle exchanges as a legitimate intervention, providing a site to facilitate the injection of illegal drugs is going too far. He also invoked the slippery-slope argument.

“There are already people saying injection sites aren’t enough, that true harm reduction is giving out heroin for free,” the minister said.

“You have to draw the line somewhere and we feel we’re drawing the line in a place Canadians are comfortable,” Mr. Clement said in an interview in Mexico City, where he is attending the17th International AIDS Conference.

It is surely a shame to see Tony Clement whizzing away whatever claim to credibility he once had. In Steve Paikin’s The Life, Tony is lavishly hailed as a deep thinker and a “Boy Scout” to boot. And he makes great effort in the House to seem reasonable. But here he is now, saying things that aren’t just demonstrably untrue, but so easily refuted.

To the polls.

Ipsos Reid, June 7, 2008. “An Ipsos Reid poll made public yesterday found that 55 per cent of Canadians say the Downtown Eastside centre Insite is “a good thing” and 54 per cent say it should remain exempt from the country’s drug laws, despite a Conservative government appeal to shut it down.”

Angus Reid, May 31, 2008. “A majority of Greater Vancouver residents express support for the operations of the first legal supervised injection site in North America, and few believe the facility should be shut down after its license expires.”

Mustel Group, June 27, 2007. “A recent survey conducted by Mustel Group among a random sample of 852 B.C. adults (+/-3.4% margin of error) shows continuing support for InSite with 63% of residents in favour of the federal government extending the license to allow the safe injection site to remain open.”

Ipsos Reid, February 27, 2007. “Six-in-ten (61%) residents say they support the operation of the supervised injection site in the Downtown Eastside.”

(A page on the Public Health Agency’s website puts support at 71%.)

You’ll pardon Tony if he’s a bit fuzzy on the definition of majority, what with his party’s minority being allowed the freedom of majority for more than two years now. But if only in the interests of his own self-respect he might try approaching his job forthrightly. First, it was the science. At least until more investigation only redeemed that which the government meant to reject. Now, it’s public opinion. Only just a few minutes with Google is enough to debunk that.

So what next? Clement believes—his words—he’s “on the side of angels.” Which is perhaps as close as he’s come to full disclosure. As much as theology and ideology are one in the same. The primary difference being that those of great religious faith make no excuses for their beliefs, no matter the contradictions, improbabilities and incongruities.


BTC: Imaginary government

  1. So Komagata Maru and then this.
    Perhaps we who play checkers are simply missing the brilliance of this plan. Yes, I have it, the Conservatives are looking to alienate British Columbia entirely, thus ensuring there is no need to seriously campaign there (and they’re a bunch of hippy pot-heads anyway) so ample room for further in-and-out maneuvering for national election advert buys.

    In addition, by fanning the flames of alienation, he’s looking forward to the day when the western provinces will separate, fed up by a government that is unable to do anything because it has been strangled by bad tax cuts and the growth of the TFSA. Once that happens, then Harper will truly have achieved his goal of strangling the federal government in the bathtub. Cognac and cigars all around, men, we can resume the gilded age.

    Ah yes, it’s all so clear now.

  2. Clement is positioning for the next leadership race which could start by the end of this year. That’s all there is.

  3. I would like to know what the exact questions were in these polls. Do people even know what goes on at these sites? I simply don’t believe 60% of Canadians think giving junkies a place to do their business is a ‘good thing’.

    I am curious, what ‘science’ is being used to determine whether these sites are working.

    I like Clement’s comment about what Canadians are comfortable with. For years, I have been listening to Liberals define Canadian ‘values’ as being exactly whatever the Libs were doing that day. Conservatives adopting this trick is just fine with me.

    As an aside, I was reading about U.S. polls and affirmative action the other week. The article said something like 75% of Americans support ‘affirmative action’ while 80% of Americans oppose ‘racial preferences’. I always knew what words you used in the question was important but I had no idea how much and that’s why I wonder what exactly pollsters were asking about Insite.

  4. Anyone suggesting Clement has had any credibility since having his hand in Keen’s demotion has either far less understanding of what happened or far more patience than I.


    he’s got “McVety sock-puppet” written all over him.

  5. What is it about Charles McVety that makes anyone seriously believe that he has this Svengali-like hold over members of parliament? A man as thoroughly unimpressive as him surely couldn’t make an experienced politician like Tony Clement say or do things by the sheer force of charisma. This is the most tired and bogus straw man the left pulls out.

  6. “What is it about Charles McVety that makes anyone seriously believe that he has this Svengali-like hold over members of parliament?”

    The CPC loses brand postioning with the Christian right and they can kiss any chance of so much as a repeat minority good-bye. That and a good chunk cashflow.

    What is it about McVety that downplaying the movement he represents requires hyperbole?

  7. I really need to stop saying this stuff before Scaifes’ waifs have finished their morning huddle.

  8. I was actually a bit surprised to see one of McVety’s associates at the InSite committee hearing this spring. I wouldn’t have recognized him myself, but a friend pointed him out to me; I’d not realized that he was involved in the anti-InSite lobby, although a bit of after-the-fact googling revealed that one of his fellow travellers, Joseph Ben Ami, has been quite vocal in his opposition to the facility.

    Sending Clement out to rail against harm reduction still seems high risk/low-potential-gain to me, particularly given the numbers that Colleague Wherry provides vis a vis his claim that Canadians are “comfortable” with his current position, but I’m not the Most Brilliant Political Strategist Prime Minister In The History of Ever.

  9. If somewhere between 35% and 45% of the respondents are on the other side of this issue, and the CPC are the only party speaking for them, it seems like a reasonably profitable political strategy.

  10. ps: that took all of fifteen seconds to find. I have little patience, but I guess jwl has even less. I don’t expect the science will turn out to matter as it will most likely go unread.

  11. I don’t understand why some are going hysterical about this. Clement says he has a position that Canadians are comfortable with. The next election will decide it one way or another.

    By the way, you can tell a pollster you’re in support of something while still being comfortable with it one way or another.

    This is a reason to attack Clement personally? Wow.

  12. Oh, and there are studies that suggest these sites don’t work. That’s on top of the moral and ethical question of whether or not we should allow explicitly illegal activity to occur on taxpayer funded property. Or that we should condone illegal activity period.

    But let’s forget about those annoying question. Tony Clement is a jerk, and so is anyone else who isn’t crazy about these publicly funded heroin clubs.

  13. 300baud

    Thanks for introducing me to google scholar, never heard of it before, and you should give more than 4 minutes before you get your knickers in a twist.

    I think most drugs should be legalized and controlled by the government so I am not necessarily an enemy of injection sites.

    I was questioning the use of the word ‘science’ because I believe science proves/disproves theories and I don’t believe there is anyway to know precisely what effect the centre is having.

    I have been getting into behavioural economics recently and it’s something that scholars don’t entirely understand as yet. What effect does having a centre for junkies have on the community? Do people think they can now use heroin or cocaine safely so they might give it a try? I have no idea and neither does anyone else.

  14. Do people think they can now use heroin or cocaine safely so they might give it a try?


  15. Geiseric the Lame,

    What does Linda Keen’s demotion have to do with anything?

    By the way, I recently met a fellow from the AECL and asked him his opinion on Keen’s demotion…he said the announcement was met with rejoicing throughout the entire organization. He described her tenure as a “reign of terror”. And he was no fan of Harper either.

    But of course making Keen look unsympathetic doesn’t fit with the whole “Harper is a bully” narrative so that angle is never reported. Makes one wonder though how hard the media have to look to find her supporters when they criticize her firing.

  16. Sorry for that snarky second post. I shouldn’t talk to people, I really shouldn’t.

    If people are going to safe injection sites, they are not injecting in front of the public. I think seeing people shoot up in public is more likely to influence a person’s standards and normalize the thing than seeing a safe injection site would. I think we’re just speculating tho, I don’t think there has been enough time to know if Insite make IV drugs socially acceptable. I don’t really see how that would work though. Are hospitals a social encouragement to get sick? Does a sports medicine clinic make one want to tear a tendon? Does the House of Commons inspire anyone to be a leader? Okay, another cheap shot.

  17. The whole concept of harm-reduction sites seems hopelessly conflicted, so no wonder it generates more confusion in turn.

    If it is illegal to use these drugs, then how can the government of the day support their use in any way or form?

    Yet, if the use of these drugs is simultaneously considered to be a public health issue for which any reduction in harm caused would be beneficial, how can the the government of the day not support programs such as this?

    Didn’t Doctors prescribe alcohol for medicinal purposes during prohibition? The same hypocritical attitudes persist with the same dismal results.

  18. Bill, it isn’t illegal to use them on the site. In a more general sense, I don’t think the government can use “but it’s illegal!” as an argument, since it’s only illegal when and because they say so; they are really saying, “because I say so!” It’s an answer that simply dodges the question.

  19. I dunno Bill, I only see it as difficult if people believe the world is divided into simple black-white/yes-no propositions. We frequently make exceptions to the rules based on the situation. There are lots of drugs that it’s not legal to possess without a prescription, for instance, but fine if you have one. Similarly, there are speed limits that it’s not legal to exceed — except for in emergencies for certain people.

    The guiding principle should be “does the exception benefit more than it’s allowance hurts”. With controlled situations like InSite, at least, if you ask the non-addict residents of the area, the answer seems to be that it does.

  20. Mike T, 300baud

    You two dismiss out of hand what influence the centre is having on the community but it really could be encouraging others to try illegal drugs which, I would argue, is not an outcome that should be encouraged.

    The link is to a UK article that got me interested in human behaviour and how we are not entirely predictable.

    The gist of the article is “Information about social norms — how other people behave — is an extremely powerful influence on behaviour.”


  21. “What does Linda Keen’s demotion have to do with anything?”

    did I leave out the part about credibility?

    the man co-signs a wobbler his cohort later confirms to be a direct order they have no business making, rolling heads later to cover his can is only going to cost us money.

  22. If it was just about the cost/benefit of the use of these drugs, these arguments hold water, but these are also recreational drugs that provide pleasure to their users. The constituency that Clement is listening to on this subject believe that such sites will be abused by recreational drug users, and will be getting high on the government tab.

    I doubt if Clement believes this, but I think that Harper does and thus the policy.

  23. Two points:

    1. I think injection sites should be restricted to hospital campuses. If it’s a health issue, fine, let’s make it a health venue rather than a storefront. At least if something goes wrong on a hospital campus help is nearby.

    2. Re: the poll result. I’d like to see the drill down too, but in terms of how strongly the agreement/disagreement was indicated. I have a funny feeling those for were mostly “sure whatever” whereas those against were “hell no!” If that feeling bears out then it has significant implications politically in terms of get-out-the-vote and so on.

    Vancouver civic politics is in for some change with Sam Sullivan’s being deposed as mayoral candidate by his party – it would be interesting if Vancouverians in the know could indicate where the new guy and his main challengers stand.

  24. Aaron Wherry, Greater Vancouver residents, fellow responders and readers:

    One very frustrating aspect to the controversy surrounding Vancouver’s GHETTO (Downtown Eastside,) and Canada’s lone Safe Injection Site (Insite), is how few individuals who freely provide their opinion regarding this issue have personally toured what was once it’s lowly skid-row neighborhood…it makes for a heart wrenching as well as intimidating visit.
    Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside truly resembles a war zone.
    Statements like ‘Insite is “a good thing”’ ignores the reality on the ground; the Downtown Eastside is NOT getting better for it.

  25. The best point yet by : comment by City of Vancouver resident : You do not need scientific studies, countless reports by concerned citizens (of other neighbourhoods)or anything else but a trip around a few blocks and a brief talk with any local business person and you get to the truth. The sooner we can get rid of this place the better and then locate needle exchanges or any other option near a police station or hospital depending on how you want to manage the results. Last but not least we need to build way more detox and treatment centres and then re-invigorate the vagrancy and public intoxication laws and start cleaning house. I would suggest any person without a means of employment and in public under the influence of any mind altering substance -> straight to the isolation cell for at least 3 or 4 days that ought to take care of any creepy crawlies they are suffering from and then plunk their keysters down in a 90 day 12 step program mandatory (NA would be best) hey what can I say I know my 12 step programs been to a few meetings myself for the worst drug of all alcohol which by the way is far and away worse than any other drug us humans do as it removes way more than just paint!. Within 2 years we would see a transformation in our society but the bleeding heart Liberals would never allow it as it makes too much sense or worse was originally suggested by a Conservative.

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