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Posted: January 22, 2023

Liberals support decriminalization despite MLA’s comments

Letter to the Editor

Toxic drugs have taken far too many lives in our province. Each of these people leave behind family, friends, and loved ones dealing with heartbreaking loss.  It’s a truly devastating crisis that requires all elected leaders to work across party lines to save lives.

The magnitude of this crisis has resulted in all parties – including Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka’s Liberals – coming together in support of life-saving policies such as drug decriminalization and safe supply.

That’s why I was disappointed to read the recent letter to the Editor from Mr. Shypitka criticizing decriminalization, which goes against Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon’s position on the issue.

Just one week ago, Falcon said “it’s important that you have safe drugs as part of the continuum of care.”

Falcon’s comments follow a recent report from a committee of NDP, Liberal, and Green MLAs who unanimously supported safe supply and decriminalization. The committee’s recommendations were to “support the successful implementation of decriminalization” and “fund measures to ensure a prescribed safer supply of substances is available in all areas of the province.”

The fact that NDP, Liberal, and Green MLAs could put aside our political differences to support these policies reflects the seriousness and urgency of the crisis. That’s why I was concerned to see Mr. Shypitka’s attempt to undermine that unity. And why I was grateful to see Kevin Falcon take an important step to prevent Mr. Shypitka from spreading his stigmatizing message.

After Mr. Shypitka published his letter, CBC News asked him for a radio interview on the topic. Rather than allowing Shypitka to continue with his harmful and dangerous rhetoric, Kevin Falcon asked his Mental Health and Addictions spokesperson Elenore Sturko to do the interview. I was grateful that MLA Shypitka was not emboldened to continue undermining the all-party consensus on decriminalization.

In that CBC interview, Ms. Sturko made it clear that Tom Shypitka’s comments do not reflect the position of Kevin Falcon or the Liberals. She said, “we all feel that decriminalization can be a tool” and “this isn’t a partisan issue.”

I couldn’t agree with her more.

We also agree that decriminalization is only one part of the solution. That’s why our government is investing $430 million over the next three years to fight the toxic drug crisis. We’re adding new treatment and recovery services, opening complex care spaces, expanding overdose prevention programs, and working to end the stigma that deters people from seeking help.

Here in the Kootenays, we’re taking action as well. In Nelson, we have a doctor who is establishing a safe supply clinic to connect people with counselling and other supports. This clinic could prescribe fentanyl patches, compounded fentanyl capsules, and oral morphine, which are allowed under B.C.’s new safe supply program. This is the type of progressive approach endorsed by the NDP, Liberals, and Greens.

I’m hopeful that we can build on this non-partisan approach in the months ahead. It’s absolutely essential that we continue to put aside our partisan differences to escalate our response and save lives.

Brittny Anderson,

MLA for Nelson-Creston

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