Premier Clark promises $10-million to fight drug related deaths

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Premier Christy Clark poked fun at her own expense to open her wide-ranging speech to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention but moved on to weightier topics, ending on a promise of $10-million in funding to fight substance abuse deaths in B.C.

Delegates questioned Clark why the province took so long to earmark resources to stop the drug death epidemic.

“Hindsight is 20-20, but we’ve done more than anybody else in the country,” she told them.

Clark said B.C. will provide $10 million to support a B.C. addiction treatment research and training centre to fight the overdose epidemic.

Part of the money — $5-million — would support a new B.C. Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) to target solutions to the overdose crisis.

“We are halfway to our goal of 500 more recovery beds in the province. But we recognized we’ve got to really step up those efforts. It’s absolutely urgent,” she said.

“I think every parent in the province that hasn’t been affected sits home and worries every night if their children are out at a party. Every single one of these deaths is not just tragic, it is absolutely preventable.”

Addiction resources needed

The money to fight addiction deaths is being applauded.

“This investment to create the B.C. Centre on Substance Use will save lives … it will help to address many of the health and social challenges associated with untreated addiction facing the health care system in B.C.,” said Dr. Evan Wood, medical director of addiction services at Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care.

The other $5 million is earmarked for other priorities like training police about how to use naloxone to save lives as well as:

  • More community forums to educate about the dangers of fentanyl.
  • Equipment and supplies for drug testing.
  • Enhanced enforcement to catch drug traffickers.
  • New spaces for supervised consumption services.
  • Better drug identification equipment for the provincial Toxicology Centre and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control

“The prevalence of fentanyl and other harmful opioids has increased the exposure of police officers … it’s critical that they are trained to assist individuals who are in danger and also have the ability to protect themselves,” said Solicitor General Mike Morris.

Premier jokes about son’s royal gaffe

The premier underlined her own role as a mother throughout the speech, referring to her own son, Hamish, in her opening.

She drew laughter from the 2,000 municipal leaders at the convention, describing how her son laughed at the thought of her trying to be as perfect as the Royal Family, and admonished her for not telling him he needed to keep his hands out of his pockets in front of the British guests.

Several times she noted her affinity with everyday B.C. parents, highlighting a new provincial program she said has helped 3,566 single parents, most of them women.

She also touted the recent federal approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project and credited B.C. leadership for building confidence with Ottawa and getting the deal approved.

Clark said natural gas exports to China, Japan and other parts of the world will cut down on coal use and create cleaner air.

‘Leadership means you have to make a decision sometimes’

With an election just around the corner, the premier also boasted about provincial initiatives to keep housing and energy affordable in the province, claiming those moves will keep people moving to and staying in B.C.

She said her government had made tough calls and kept employment rates high, taxes low and new tech sector and energy projects alive.

She defended controversial projects like Site C.

“Leadership means you have to make a decision sometimes,” she said, pointing to the need for more clean, renewable power options in B.C.

“Site C is creating a lot of jobs in our province.”

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