He just can’t help himself. With a double-digit lead in the polls and the governing Liberals clearly on the ropes, you might think Pierre Poilievre would stick to safe political messaging around the cost of living and need for lower taxes. Instead, he’s busy trading in obvious and inflammatory lies about the prime minister and his apparent responsibility for everything bad that’s ever happened since he was elected in 2015 — including, apparently, every single death from toxic drugs such as fentanyl.

“Trudeau’s wacko drug policies have killed 42,000 Canadians,” Poilievre said on social media. “After pushing to decriminalize hard drug use in public places, he is backtracking in the hopes he can impose it after the election, when voters can’t stop him. Fire Trudeau. Ban the drugs. Treat addiction. Bring our loved ones home drug free.”

This is dangerous nonsense, and it’s worth taking a moment to unpack exactly why. First, the Trudeau government never “pushed” to decriminalize hard drugs — it simply agreed to a request made by the B.C. government in 2022 that sought to address the growing numbers of toxic drug deaths in that province. The recent decision to recriminalize possession of certain hard drugs in public places was, again, in response to a request made by B.C.

More to the point, there’s no way to “ban the drugs” here. There’s a mountain of evidence showing just how futile this sort of war on drugs approach has been in the past, and that’s especially true when it comes to something as potentially lethal — and, more importantly, easy to manufacture — as fentanyl. As Vanda Felbab-Brown noted in a 2023 story for Foreign Affairs, “synthetic opioids such as fentanyl can be produced from a wide array of chemicals, many of which also have legitimate commercial uses. That means restricting the supply of these chemicals is difficult and impractical. What is more, when regulators ban or restrict synthetic opioids or their ingredients, producers simply tweak their recipes.”

Finally, the notion that there’s any sort of correlation between the decision to decriminalize certain hard drugs and the growing number of deaths from them is belied by the experiences of a place called Alberta. Its UCP government has made its preference for a recovery-oriented approach — and its skepticism of things like safe supply programs and supervised consumption sites — abundantly clear. At its most recent annual general meeting, for example, UCP members voted in favour of a resolution calling on their government to end all funding for supervised consumption sites. And yet, drug deaths in Alberta hit yet another record high in 2023, increasing nearly 17 per cent over 2022. Fentanyl was found in more than 93 per cent of these cases, methamphetamine in two-thirds.

Of all the issues in Canada that could be effectively addressed with a three-word slogan, this is at the very bottom of the list. So why does Poilievre continue to pretend otherwise? There are two possible explanations, and neither is particularly appealing. Poilievre and his team may believe that this sort of rhetoric is responsible for their rise in the polls, and is therefore required in order to continue suppressing the Liberal vote. Keep Canadians mad for another year and a half, they might think, and they can start measuring the drapes on 24 Sussex. This ignores the possibility that Canadians could get tired of this toxic negativity, or that the more he tries to rage farm the lower the yields might get.

The more likely explanation, I think, is that this is just who Pierre Poilievre is. For all the image consultants and new contact lenses and maybe even the occasional shaping undershirt, his successful political makeover can’t completely conceal his character flaws. And on this issue, perhaps more than any other, those flaws are on full and flagrant display. His willingness to blame a political opponent for drug deaths that pretty clearly aren’t his fault, and his irrepressible attraction to simplistic slogans over actual solutions, are two of the most worrying.

We need to remind ourselves what’s really at stake here. This isn’t about Pierre Poilievre or Justin Trudeau as much as it is about Sidney McIntyre-Starko, the 18 year-old University of Victoria student who died back in January of a toxic drug overdose. As the Vancouver Sun’s Lori Culbert showed in her brilliant (and heartbreaking) piece, the teen’s death could easily have been avoided. And make no mistake: there are thousands of other potential Sidney McIntyre-Starkos out there: people who, through one bad decision or careless mistake, could be exposed to lethal fentanyl themselves. She didn’t have to die, and neither should they.

But we’re not going to be able to have the conversations needed to save them, whether they’re about safe supply or better equipping first responders and others to deal with overdoses, if all the political oxygen is being consumed by people like Poilievre who want to assign blame rather than find solutions. At some point, this has to become a litmus test for all of us: do we want to elect people who are good at reminding us of what’s broken, or ones who are actually serious about fixing it?

Ridiculous as this sounds, Pierre Poilievre is blaming Justin Trudeau for every toxic drug death since he was first elected prime minister. #fentanyl #deaths #drugs #cdnpoli @maxfawcett writes for @natobserver

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Pierre just doing Pierre.
Totally sickening what he and his "Conservative Party of Canada" are all about.
I still can't fathom the gullibility of those plumping his polling numbers.

Agree whole heartedly

PP may just be being PP. but his attacks and promises of change to our independent institutions are a direct threat to our democracy and freedoms. One has to take seriously his mulling over removing rights, or Ford stating we need like minded judges. Conservatives espouse freedom and implement the opposite. Just watch Big Sister Smith in Alberta with her centralizing control of everything including municipal councils

I predict that if The Angry Man is elected, there will be a multi-generation scale of voter regret soon enough.

If not, meaning the double digit lead in the polls indicates true belief and the wrecking crew is re-elected in 2029, it's time to move to a nice peaceful northern European country.

I'm about ready to steal Poilievre's first name, confiscate Justin's last name, and resurrect Pierre Trudeau.

Good one.
But P.P. labelled both Pierre and Justin Trudeau as "Marxists".
Therefore, I am very afraid of both men, because P.P. would never lie or smear just to score political points among the uninformed.