Thursday, August 21, 2008

Harper’s drug flyers a dishonest abuse of tax dollars

The federal Conservatives seem set on confirming many people’s worst fears with their sleazy, dishonest and just plain stupid direct mail pieces to millions of Canada homes.
And at the same time, they’re playing fast and loose with taxpayers’ money, pretending that partisan promotional material is legitimate communication between MPs and the public.
You’ve seen them. The flyers are cheap looking single sheets, with a picture or two of Steven Harper and a headline on some issue. Then there’s a ballot, with an arrow aimed at Harper’s name.
And the flyer likely came to your mailbox from some Conservative MP you’ve never heard of in another province.
MPs can send mail at no cost; the government compensates Canada Post. The intent is to let them keep their constituents informed. (You can write MPs without putting stamps on the envelopes too.)
But these aren’t information pieces. And they’re not going to the people MPs represent. They’re political ads, masquerading as legitimate communications.
A lot of people voted for Harper’s party because they were sick of seeing these kinds of abuses. They wanted a moral, conservative government that respected the rules and the need to spend taxpayers’ money responsibly. They expected better.
And other people voted for them because recent Liberal governments appalled them. Some worried a Conservative government might impose an aggressive social conservative agenda, but decided to trust Harper.
And a flyer that has attracted a lot of attention has made a lot of them figure that was a mistake.
It has a picture on the outside of a syringe laying a playground, and a big headline: “Safe?”
Inside, there’s a jail door and more headlines: “Junkies and drug pushers don’t belong near children and families. They should be in rehab or behind bars.”
The Liberals let thugs and drug pushers write the rules, the flyer says. The Conservatives will “keep junkies in rehab and off the streets.”
It’s really offensive, perhaps mostly because the flyer assumes Canadians are both dumb and lacking in basic compassion. While many Canadians might be sick of dealing with the effects of addiction, they are not stupid.
The language in the flyers tells part of the story. A junkie is someone you sweep off the street, into the garbage. An addict, someone with a mental illness, they are people – someone’s son or daughter. And most of us – most of the time – see that.
And the wording of “keep junkies in rehab and off the streets” is plain dishonest on two levels.
No party – including the Conservatives – has called for compulsory detention and treatment for people with addictions.
It wouldn’t work, it raises a slew of rights issues and Canadians wouldn’t stand for government round ups of thousands of people in B.C. alone.
The capital region has 1,500 to 2,000 injection drug users, and thousands more with other addictions. Would a Harper majority government send squadrons out to drag them all off to rehab?
And where, exactly, would they go? There are about 100 residential spaces for the entire Vancouver Island. How would the Conservatives increase treatment capacity 40 or 50 times?
While the government is promising to lock up thousands of people, addicts who want to get clean today and seek help are being told there is no space for them and sent back to the streets.
And this all came as Health Minister Tony Clement accused the Canadian Medical Association members of unethical conduct because the organization supports safe injection sites. All the legitimate research shows the sites reduce sickness and death and connect users with other services, including treatment. There are no negative consequences.
But Clement doesn’t like the idea, so Canada’s doctors are accused of acting unethically.
There is a lot to be said for a true conservative party – one that respects individual rights and taxpayers’ money and approaches problems pragmatically.
Too bad Canada doesn’t have one.
Footnote: It’s odd, really. The Conservatives’ dishonest flyers might be appealing to a minority who already would likely vote for them. But in the process, there are scaring away the voters Harper needs to win a majority – moderate Canadians who just want competent, pragmatic government.


Gazetteer said...

Re: The Footnote.....

Wouldn't be so sure about that Paul.

You don't think they haven't focus-tested this up the whazoo?

Because, based on the evidence, it looks like they are trying to make a fear-driven Wedge issue out of this one.

(and then, when they drive back to the middle, will they announce a 'legal drug substitution' initiative'.....?)


usri said...

this is one of the tactics to win the elections.

Anonymous said...

I would love to believe that the Harper government's scare tactics will ward off moderate Canadians, but this level of fear based propaganda has been proven to work throughout our recent history. The sensationalism based around the safety of "our" children from thugs (obviously black, right?), "drug pushers", "junkies" and of course all of the needles just waiting to infect your child (re: the image on the cover of the leaflet) is all designed to manipulate support from parents and people who care about the safety of children in our community. This tactic is based around the idea that they would be negligent or responsible for the endangerment of children if they do anything but agree to a hardline approach to this issue. Logic, compassion, research, education, understanding and all other dialogues surrounding the issue are immediately dismissed and forgotten. It illicits an emotional response from the reader targeting their protective instinct. This is a reaction that defies intellect and logic and rather cements an opinion based on emotion. It's a very basic and primitive manipulation by the expensive marketing teams the conservative government has most definitely hired. I wish I could say that I believe the majority of Canadians will be repulsed by this flyer, but history has shown us people respond to fear and hysteria. Think 9/11. Think Nazi propaganda. I would hate to think that I may have to wear a symbol on my clothes advertising of my addiction like the Nazi's made the Jews. If anyone believes that needle exchange, safe injection sites, and access to other addiction services is not positive then they've never had the great opportunity to meet me. I am a productive, positive, engaging and law abiding citizen who has high goals for a successful career and life who is a full time addict. I'm grateful and dependent on these essential services that keep me safe and healthy. According to the Harper government, because I have this disease (which I work hard to manage, on and off of drugs) I am just a "junkie" who should be institutionalized and forgotten. Hmmmm. I'm your daughter, your sister, your mother, your neighbor, your employee and employer. You'd never recognize me, the "junkie" because I'm not a dangerous person like I've been made out to be I just have a disease. But still the Harper government wants to persecute me.

Anonymous said...

Some Tory MP from Winnipeg blanketed my area of Nanaimo with a free mailer about something even more important to the local community -- barley and barley marketing.

What's *wrong* with that party? Do they understand that "West" is not the same as "Prairies"?

And what an abuse of taxpayers' money!

Anonymous said...

Let's go right back to when the Bank of Nova Scotia was at the corner of Hastings and Columbia. Drug deals were actively carried on in the lobby at the tables where bank deposit and withdrawal papers were placed. I was told to ignore those goings on by the managers. Cops and druggies was the term. The bank closed because of this. The worst incident was when a drug bust went down in front of our customers and the dealer lost all his teeth to a metal shoe horn in the bank/s foyer. That was one of many incidents during my year and a half at that bank. Fast forward to my next career - teacher in an elementary school. Grade six drug dealer - police couldn't do much and principal attitude was don't upset the school board it will cause problems for his promotion. Drug dealer continued to deal drugs in the school successfully. Moved to a new school - same problem- police had their hands tied by not being able to remove the dealer - he was a kid after all and REALLY didn't understand what he was doing. The oldest brother at UBC ran the drugs to his brother in highschool and his youngest brother in elementary school. Again no one dealt with the problem and the administration didn't want to hear about it. New school and new problem. Family of drug runners with the kids doing the dealing and delivery. Everything came to a head when the 'gang' needed to punish one of the runners for using some of 'the money' for a leather jacket. We are talking about a ten year old here. The enforcers came right into the school and came looking for the boy and had absolutely no fear of the call to the office and the police. The police were NOT called as it would not look good for the school. So where does the whole problem of drugs start? With our children and the political, law enforcement, and judiciary let it all happen because of stupid laws that say children are exempt for some stupid reason. The first boy who admitted he was a dealer even told me how he collected his outstanding debts - phone the home of the debtor at 2 or 3 am in the morning and explain to the parent who answered that a debt was owed. You figure out what happened next. This tactic was bragged about on the school ground. Too many people are making too much money for this ever to change. Cynical, you bet.