For better or worse, Pierre Poilievre has turned the YouTube video into a key piece of his political brand. He’s used them to do everything from launch his leadership campaign to opine on subjects like inflation and cryptocurrencies, and they’ve allowed him to largely bypass the mainstream media and get his message directly to voters. That message is a simple but seductive one: it’s all their fault.

They, of course, are his political enemies in Ottawa, who are responsible for everything from global inflation to Europe’s energy crisis to, yes, the opioid addiction crisis. But his latest video, shot in front of a makeshift tent city near the Port of Vancouver, might be his most cynical and depraved yet. It begins, as so many of Poilievre’s interventions do, with some creative math and a spurious correlation. He says there’s been a “300 per cent increase” in drug overdose deaths in British Columbia since Justin Trudeau took office in 2015. In reality, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths has gone from 806 in 2016 to 2,291 in 2021 — a horrifying increase, but one that is 184 per cent, much smaller than Poilievre asserts.

That’s a minor quibble, though. The much bigger and more important one is Poilievre’s pattern of identifying a real problem, briefly empathizing with the people who are suffering from it and then framing the solution in purely partisan terms. When it comes to the addiction and drug abuse problems plaguing Vancouver, as well as other parts of the country, he suggests it can all be traced back to the policies of — you guessed it — Trudeau’s Liberal government. “The addictions that we see, that have terrorized these people and our communities, they are the result of a failed experiment,” he says. “This is a deliberate policy by woke Liberal and NDP governments to provide taxpayer-funded drugs, [and] flood our streets with easy access to these poisons.”

If only it were that simple.

The supervised injection sites that he describes as a “failed experiment” have already saved thousands of lives and helped thousands of other people who use dangerous drugs access social supports and services that can help them break their addictions. According to an analysis by the BC Coroners Service that looked at illicit drug toxicity deaths between Jan. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2022, not one person has died of an overdose at a supervised consumption site. More importantly, there was “no indication” the sites were contributing to the rise in drug-related deaths.

The biggest contributor there, as Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason noted in a recent column, is the potency of the drugs themselves. “There were roughly 200 deaths per year before fentanyl became a common ingredient of street drugs,” he wrote. In 2021, illicit drugs led to more than 2,000 deaths in B.C., “and, again, none of them occurred at a safe consumption site. Fentanyl or analogues were detected in less than five per cent of illicit drug deaths in 2012. It’s almost 86 per cent now.”

Poilievre tries to suggest that Alberta’s United Conservative Party government is taking a radically different approach, one that focuses more on recovery and personal responsibility and that this somehow offers a model for the rest of the country. But as former Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells pointed out in a long piece on his Substack, the data — drawn from Alberta’s own information portal — suggests it’s not nearly as different as Poilievre would like to pretend.

Methadone and buprenorphine — the “taxpayer-funded” drugs Poilievre rails against — have all seen substantial increases in usage in Alberta since 2020. Sublocade, an injectable form of buprenorphine that’s designed to reduce opioid cravings in longer-term drug users who haven’t been helped by other treatments, has gone from being used with one patient to 891 in Alberta in just a year and half. Then there’s hydromorphone, another injectable “taxpayer-funded” drug, which will be part of pilot programs soon in Edmonton and Calgary.

Is that the fault of the UCP government? Of course not. It’s a reflection of the reality that all governments have to face: these drugs and the problems they cause defy simple solutions or partisan prescriptions. Oh, and about those safe consumption sites in Vancouver? Alberta has five of them, too, whether Poilievre realizes it or not. “Why does Alberta run all these harm-reduction services?” Wells asks. “For the same reason B.C. and other Canadian jurisdictions do: because they save lives.”

The latest video from the Conservative Party of Canada leader, shot in front of a makeshift tent city near the Port of Vancouver, might be his most cynical and depraved yet, writes columnist @maxfawcett for @NatObserver. #opinion #PierrePoilievre

If there’s a failed experiment afoot here, it’s our continued insistence on using the institutions and apparatuses of law enforcement to treat a medical issue. That’s not an issue that Poilievre is likely to broach, given he can’t use it to blame “woke” politicians or otherwise confirm existing biases of his base. It’s much easier for him to create false binaries and paint the political landscape in exclusively partisan colours, and he shows no sign of deviating from this well-worn path.

But that won’t do a damn thing to actually help the people he claimed to care about in his most recent video. It’s easy to say, as he did, that “everything feels broken.” It’s much harder to actually offer up real solutions that involve more than just blaming your political opponents.

Social media platforms that mediate our lives make it easy to get people addicted to the potent political narcotics of partisanship and anger. The last thing we need right now are leaders who insist on trafficking in those things.

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my 27 year old (eco justice is the way) son’s best friend saw this video and thinks its great. he was influenced strongly by his dad’s conservative , blue collar, hard drinking, money is all that matters family and will not hear anything against a potato running for the CONS.
His younger sister pamphlets for the communist party, ( capitalism is the problem) but she’s at U of T not working a trade. hows that for a range of young people’s views?
Information just doesn't matter to most people.
Look at mask wearing uptake right now while more people than ever are dying and suffering from long covid. terrifying.

It is really troubling. The lack of knowledge, and quite frankly the lack of caring or willingness to learn is a problem. Canadians are woefully ill-informed on far too many topics.

I think information matters to them, a lot -- but facts don't ... or factuality, truth, whatever one chooses to call it.

Covid deaths are still going on, but not nearly as many as in earlier times; case numbers, however, have sky-rocketed. And it's still all the usual suspects dying: old ppl, ppl with compromised immune systems, and people who haven't taken vaccines, for whatever reason (including allergies to vaccine ingredients).

What "feels broken" to me is listening to P.P. get up in Parliament, get a resounding round of applause from his brigade of trained seal pups for simply rising on queue (as if he were Jesus being introduced to the throngs) then proceeding to gaslight the public (as if he was some sort of "gotcha genius") on whatever issue he decides to harp about. Thanks Max for pointing out how he uses the later part of his schtick in his YouTube videos which manage to skirt any valid questions from the mainstream media. Pure genius or calculated clawing toward the levers of power? Depends I suppose on whether you are "woke" or not.

Fewer and fewer people read traditional newspapers or listen/watch main-line radio and TV: it is too complicated! People watch UTube and are addicted to short messages on social media: very easy to digest, even is mostly false or misleading, intermingled with real facts. That is how Trump and Poilièvre gain supporters.
The only way to deliver good information is to format it so that people can grasp it in a few seconds; a challenge, but if it is not done, we will get Poilièvre and the likes of him as leaders.

Agreed with the problem. But although your solution is valid to a point, Should life and its challenges be reduced to sound bites? Education is key. And a strong component is teaching our young/and beyond to be inquiring - to be truth and fact seekers.

Who told you that "The only way to deliver good information is to format it so that people can grasp it in a few seconds". It's nonsense. People are well aware about many complex issues, from wages, pensions and RRSPs to their technical equipment at work and at home. Drug deaths and climate change require a bit of work, not something that can be read in a few seconds.

I think you're right Richard that information very much needs to be "reformatted" somehow. I think hiring some poets would help.....

FWIW, people I know have ceased to listen to CBC because it's so dumbed down it's insulting. On top of that, there's limited factuality (except, perhaps, when detailing gun deaths and car accidents: those sell advertisers' product, I understand).
And the music is generally pretty terrible, too.

Depraved is the correct word to describe the nonsense that this idiot is spewing. His simplistic, ignorant and harmful rhetoric has the ability to really hurt those already suffering from addictions. What he proposes, WILL NOT work, has not worked and cannot work. His "solutions" have all been tried and failed. The war on drugs, has had a shelf length of over 40 years, and has not worked, it has simply exacerbated the problem. The criminalization of recreational drugs has been over 100 years and has not worked, only exacerbated the problem. People have been self-medicating since the beginning of time, they will not stop self-medicating by adopting the PP plan. What this doofus does not address is homelessness, income inequality, physical and mental abuse, lack of education, lack of addiction and mental health support, lack of opportunity, and all the other social issues that people like Poilievre ignore or cut funding to, that are the very causes of people resorting to substances to mask their pain. Safe supply, safe injection sites and strong, supportive mental health and addiction supports (with multiyear funding) are all required to get the current problem under control. PP addresses none of this, nor does he advocate spending the money in the areas required to deal with this problem effectively.

Of course I agree that Poilievre is spewing dangerous, simplistic nonsense. But to me the bigger question, and one that journalists never seem to focus on, is why anyone falls for this dreck. Who is investigating that? How can these Canadians be so ill-informed or uninformed that they would agree with what Poilievre says? Are they just not interested in the facts? Badly educated? Not very literate? Any of these merits serious discussion. We make the assumption that every Canadian is responsible for their choices. But if so many are so susceptible to believing misinformation and disinformation, which leads to those people making choices that are harmful (like supporting the convoy, say), how can that be remedied? Courses in critical thinking in high school? Courses in civics? It's a serious problem. No matter how many journalists call out Poilievre for his statements, he's got legions of Canadians following him. And it will all end badly if he gets elected. There is no "will of the people" anymore, if there ever was.

Maybe hs is kind of late to start introducing critical thinking, when up until then, any opinion as to what is fact and what isn't is handled as though as good as any other.
I despaired as I watched my kids going through school.
Fortunately, when they went to university, they had to think or fail. And if they were university arts majors, they had to learn to write, as well. Not so much in science, where bad writing makes whole sections of research ambiguous at best. And it's not uncommon to see conclusions that don't accord with the data. Even in peer reviewed papers.
The general media reporting on science matters is even worse.
Perhaps the legions following him are louder than the myriads who aren't.

Veering between authoritarian and libertarian, Pierre Poilievre’s policies are a dangerous way to run an economy
The new conservative leader has shown a knack for fomenting anger but not for proposing sensible economic solutions, writes Jim Stanford.
Jim Stanford, Sept. 17, 2022

Jim Stanford: "Poilievre curiously denounced Ottawa's newly announced aid to low-income renters, sniffing that this$500 isn't much compared to big-city rents. For someone who has received a six-figure taxpayer-funded salary since he was 24, and is about to move into a rent-free public mansion, $500 might not seem like much. For most Canadians, it's meaningful. This hodgepodge of policies is neither right-wing nor left-wing. Poilievre promises to ban so many things; imports of Middle East oil, attendance at world economic conferences, university policies, and more ; he sounds authoritarian as often as libertarian. The only consistent thread in his economic platform is a desire to foment anger over any convenient issue, and direct it at federal institutions.That's an effective way to get yourself elected Conservative leader. But it's a very dangerous way to run an economy."

Good points from Stanford there as usual. Somehow the conservatives gained credibility on the economy since the 2008 financial crisis in that broad, generic way that has meant knee-jerk support from all those "low-information voters" who seem to have grown exponentially and so alarmingly.
What kills me is even with "Skippy" in the wings, hiding out on youtube for gods' sake and avoiding the grownup press gallery like the snickering, pimply-faced teenager he obviously still is at heart, most people in the media continue to slag the Liberals and Trudeau subtly but persistently as a matter of course. This inquiry into the Emergencies Act is the latest example of that irrationality, where, in the context of our version of Jan. 6th watched on our screens in horror for 3 WEEKS, where we were all vastly relieved when Trudeau decided to act, many still act like it was "overreach," completely ignoring the extreme and unprecedented overreach of these convoy "protesters!"
What we call the "conservative narrative" seems to have infiltrated even the CBC who under conservatives can expect to be decimated as they lead with the characteristic con paranoia that automatically posits Trudeau as sneaky and trying to get away with something and again, in the context of conservative behaviour that is boldly JUST that sneaky. THEY are the authors AND the reliable purveyors of misinformation/disinformation, not the Liberals. In that vein, they don't even HAVE a "narrative."

The most meaningful thing about $40 a month is whether one should apply it to the outstanding utilities bills, phone bills, heating bills, or (perish the thought!) buy crap groceries. Because $40 doesn't do much toward the increased costs in basic expenses over the past year or two.
Perhaps Stanford should ask people who are actually poor how meaningful it is to them.
When rents have increased so steeply and sharply, $500 won't make the difference between paying the rent and eviction. And even less so mortgages up for renewal; although most ppl with mortgages still have jobs, and often well-paying jobs, some don't. There's no relief for them. So yet another transfer of assets up the food chain.

The really telling statement was the "Conservative Party" deciding to elect as leader this petulant crybaby. What's clear to most who are paying attention, is that there is simply no intellectual or policy content in any of the "Little PP's" ranting nonsense. This a triumph of petulant nonsense and personal attacks, content is simply "not required" not that he has any in any case.

The fentanyl certainly made things far worse. But we shouldn't forget the massive contribution of Oxycontin to levels of opioid addiction; without the calculated, ruthless greed of Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family that own it there would have been a much smaller population of opioid addicts getting killed by that fentanyl.

But we know that no Conservative, and mighty few Liberal politicians, will ever blame a corporation for its crimes. Poilievre is certainly never going to be any use there.

Isn't the biggest problem fentanol, the higher-concentration version of the drug intended for veterinary use, and the usual "street" drugs being adulterated with it?
As for prescription opioid addiction, most of the blame probably falls at the feet of the prescribing doctors.

Ah yes, Pierre Poilievre, the career politician (he has been an elected MP since he was 24 years old; never held a real job) is great at running off at the mouth with criticism but NEVER offers any solutions on what he would do if in power.

One wonders if PP ever drove a truck even once in his life, being that last winter he frequently photo-opped with a deluded raging faction of big riggers that formed an illegal occupation, then used them as political pawns for weeks after.

Now he's posing with the addicted and downtrodden for the same reason. Shameless. But that doesn't make him qualified to carry senator Larry Campbell's briefcase. As chief BC Coroner Campbell called the Harper Conservatives "barbarians" for their police baton attitude and contorted legal efforts to close Insite, the first safe injection site on the continent, against empirical evidence that clearly demonstrates that it saves lives. Campbell went on to become Vancouver's mayor for a term, following Phillip Owen, a fiscal conservative mayor who was shafted by his own centre-right municipal party for his compassionate and reasoned support for addictions to be removed from the law and order crowd and assumed by the healthcare system.

Sadly, conservatives have succeeded in creating a stigma around this issue over the last 20 years, and our society remains locked somewhere between the 1950s and the the Disco Decade on treatment, homelessness and mental illness, the triad that stars in this movie.