KINEW SENDS A DANGEROUS MESSAGE ABOUT HARD DRUGS
NDP leader Wab Kinew may not have realized it when he unleashed his political attack against the Pallister government last week on its addictions fighting record. But he just created a new wedge issue for his opponents, one the Tories — who are probably drawing up new commercial storyboards as we speak — pounced on immediately.
“Wab Kinew wants to tell kids it’s OK to do meth and other illicit drugs,” Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said Thursday, two hours after Kinew released an NDP political paper on how government should fight addictions.
“I can tell you that our government will continue to warn kids about the dangers of using illicit drugs and you will be seeing more of this in the days and weeks ahead.”
You can almost hear the attack ads playing in the background.
Kinew didn’t quite say it’s OK for kids to do meth, but he wasn’t far off.
The rookie leader claims he interviewed a number of experts in the field confidentially and they told him that telling people, including kids, to just say “no” to illicit drugs doesn’t work and that they should stop using that line of messaging.
Instead, they should use a so-called harm-reduction strategy which, among other things, emphasizes education about drugs, including their effects and how to spot overdoses.
“Respondents believe a focus on abstinence-based education must be abandoned because as long as poverty, adverse childhood experiences and systemic inequality exist, drug use will remain in our society,” Kinew’s paper says.
“Therefore abstinence is not a realistic expectation in fact, respondents argued that it can be counterproductive.” Not good.
It’s one thing to accept that people, including teens, may experiment with legal substances like alcohol and now marijuana that can be supported with education and guidance. But it’s quite another thing to condone the use of illicit drugs like meth under any circumstance. The latter is highly addictive and can kill you. It’s really that simple. You don’t experiment with it. The only message for dangerous drugs like meth is to stay away from them, period. There is no safe experimenting with meth. And Kinew is playing a very dangerous game by suggesting government agencies should stop telling kids to refrain from illicit drugs.
Harm reduction is fine, including education about the effects of drugs (which already exists, by the way.
The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba does a fine job of it). And there are legitimate debates about strategies such as supervised injection sites and how they might work in Manitoba. But abandoning the abstinence message when it comes to hard drugs like meth would be entirely the wrong approach. If anything, society should be driving home the message to kids and people of all ages that under no circumstances should you touch the stuff, ever.
One of Kinew’s problems as a rookie politician is he tries to jump on bandwagons to appear forward thinking but is often ill-equipped to translate them into workable, appealing policies. He makes statements that are factually incorrect and he comes off sounding like an amateur.
For instance, he claims that people with housing, food and a “meaningful” life (whatever that means) don’t do meth. That’s factually incorrect. There are people from all walks of life that have addictions problems of various kinds, including struggles with meth and other hard drugs. Kinew attempts to link the risks of poverty with addictions (and there are some links) by making sweeping statements that are simply not true.
Also, Kinew says one of the ways to fight addictions is to change how government administers social assistance. He claims that under the current system, people on welfare can’t earn any money without having it clawed back by government. That’s also factually incorrect.
In Manitoba, people on social assistance can earn up to $200 a month without a clawback and can keep 30% of money earned over that without reduced benefits. One could argue that should be raised. But to claim you can’t earn any money while on social assistance without a clawback simply isn’t true.
Kinew is already facing an uphill battle going into the next general election given his domestic violence history and his dark social media past, which his opponents will no doubt exploit. These latest gaffes just add to his misery.
“Therefore abstinence is not a realistic expectation in fact, respondents argued that it can be counterproductive.” NDP leader Wab Kinew
NDP Leader Wab Kinew’s comments on drug use are raising controversy KEVIN KING/ WINNIPEG SUN FILES