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In-Your-Service

MP ties federal government to B.C.'s overdose death crisis

Call for drug policy reversal

The addiction crisis and government drug policies

I recently spent a day door-knocking in our community and the two top issues I heard at the doorsteps related to families experiencing an affordability crisis, along with drug-related crimes and addiction. Many people gave me examples of safety issues they’ve experienced around open drug usage.

We are seeing the tragic results of the provincial NDP government’s—supported by the federal Liberal government—drug decriminalization policy experiment on our streets and in families.

B.C. was the first province in Canada to implement illicit drug decimalization policies, which took effect Jan. 1, 2023. In 2023, the coroner's office sadly reported 2,511 deaths (from overdoses)—the highest rate of overdose deaths in B.C.’s history, where roughly one person every four hours fatally overdosed. Those aren’t just statistics, they were family members and neighbours.

While no one solution will solve this public health crisis, what the government is doing isn’t working and, in fact, many argue is making it worse. Federal Liberal and NDP MPs ignore solutions to get addiction treatment and recovery to people suffering from addiction—like when they voted down my Private Members Bill C-283 - End the Revolving Door Act.

Dozens of leading addiction doctors have now come out imploring the federal government to cancel or amend Canada’s “safe supply” policies, citing the federal government misrepresented the programs to the public, causing further harm to communities and vulnerable people with addictions as they are seeing new patients suffering from addiction and overdoses. Yet the federal mental health and addictions minister doubled down in statements at committee on her unwavering commitment to their drug policies.

I spoke in the House of Commons on behalf of parents in my community and across B.C., raising their concerns about not bringing their children to parks and playgrounds due to permitted open drug use. Crime has become rampant in our neighbourhoods, hurting families and small businesses.

It was reported recently that in Kamloops, a mother found what appeared to be a baggie of drugs in her kids’ candy haul at an Easter egg hunt.

On the criminal justice side of this, the current federal government’s soft on crime approach brought forth Bill C-5, which removed minimum sentences for many serious crimes, including drug trafficking and the production of illicit drugs. The removal of deterrence measures is something Canada’s Conservative official Opposition opposes. Recognizing addiction as a public health issue does not mean reducing the consequences for those who prey on vulnerable people.

It has been widely reported that a serious problem is government supplied, taxpayer-funded hard drugs end up in the hands of organized crime to be trafficked in the black market across Canada, fuelling the toxic drug crisis. The RCMP in Campbell River, and most recently in Prince George, seized thousands of prescription drug pills, many of which were diverted from the B.C. government’s safe supply program.

A recently leaked internal memo from B.C.’s Northern Health Authority (sent to staff at G.R. Baker Hospital in Quesnel) revealed how staff were instructed to tolerate drugs and weapons in their workplace. The backlash was swift. Though the memo was through a provincial body, the federal government’s drug decimalization policies were cited as a catalyst.

The B.C. Nurses’ Union president stated that open drug use and weapons have become “a widespread issue of significant magnitude” and that the problems increased dramatically after drug decriminalization; where “before there would be behaviours that just wouldn’t be tolerated, whereas now because of decriminalization, it is being tolerated.” Nurses have cited examples of health and safety issues.

About three years ago, the first U.S. state to implement drug decriminalization was Oregon. Recently, Democratic regulators in Oregon recognized their public failure in drug decriminalization and voted to reverse course. It's not too late for the federal government to recognize its mistake in approving the B.C. government’s drug policy request, and reverse it.

Conservatives are focused on strengthening laws to focus on victims, not criminals, and on treatment and recovery to help those suffering from addiction.

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

(Editor’s note: After the RCMP initially said it noticed an alarming trend over the last year of uncovering increasing amounts of prescription drugs in trafficking investigations, the RCMP’s assistant commissioner in B.C. and B.C.’s solicitor general both later said diversion of safer supply drugs was not widespread.)

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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Financial pressures build on food banks in Canada

Food banks busier than ever

Not only has the affordability crisis affected households and businesses, not-for-profits have been hit hard as well.

It was reported the Central Okanagan Food Bank set new records for the number of appointments in January with 9,097, and just under that number in February. To visualize that, it’s more people than could fill Kelowna’s Prospera Place arena.

This comes at a time when Food Banks B.C. reports 30% of all food bank users in the province are children and 20% more seniors are seeking assistance. Tragically, it also reported there's been a 30% drop in donations across British Columbia.

The UBC Student Union Okanagan also reported 43% of undergraduate students experience food insecurity due to the high cost of living.

According to Canada's Food Price Report, the cost of food for the typical family of four is expected to rise by $700 in 2024.

Second Harvest, Canada's largest food rescue organization, says food banks nationwide expect to brace themselves for an 18% increase in demand this year, which translates to more than a million people. Its survey also found the average funding demand per non-profit food program has increased by 13% from last year, which already saw record increases.

There are reports of a Facebook group called the Dumpster Diving Network, where 8,000 Canadians share tips on finding food in dumpsters because they cannot afford groceries. It is unbelievable that this is occurring in Canada. It’s like families and not-for-profits are rowing in one direction while the federal government is going in the other.

A significant driver in the cost-of-living crisis has been the carbon tax set by the federal Liberal government, which is set to increase again, by 23%, on April 1. This will increase the cost across the entire food chain including farmers, manufactures, transporters, warehousers, and retailers.

The federal government mandates what the carbon tax amount is, and it is increasing it every year, with plans to quadruple it (by 2030). Provinces can administer it through charging and collecting themselves (like in B.C., which is why you see “B.C. Carbon Tax” on your home heating bill) or the federal government will. Either way, it’s the same amount.

I recently had a resident forward me his home heating bill, where his gas usage was $50 and the carbon tax was $72. A local small business owner also showed me his gas bill, where $750 was carbon tax. Following the government's plan, the carbon tax will increase from $65 to $80 per tonne on April 1 and is scheduled to rise incrementally to $170 per tonne in 2030. As the carbon tax escalates annually, the financial burden on families and small businesses will intensify.

The operating costs of not for profits are increasing, and the cost to purchase food for food banks is increasing as well.

Conservative MPs tried to force the federal government to cancel the planned April 1 tax hike. Seven provincial governments, Liberals and Conservatives, joined in this effort, calling for the planned 23% increase to be canceled. A recent Leger poll also showed 69% of Canadians oppose increasing the carbon tax on April 1. Unfortunately, Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted down the Conservative motion to cancel the planned increase. As a result, Canadians will continue to pay more for groceries, gas and home heating.

The carbon tax is also not helping Canada meet its climate goals. Last year's Climate Change Performance Index had Canada falling four spots to 62nd out of the 67 countries measured.

I have frequently written about the spirit of Kelowna-Lake Country and the ability of our community to come together quickly to help those in need with repeatedly opening our doors, wallets, and hearts to those struggling. We are blessed with amazing people who give so much of their time volunteering at our local not-for-profit organizations.

My Conservative colleagues and I remain steadfast in advocating to stop tax increases and end the federal carbon tax, in Ottawa.

If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



MP says recent events cast shadow over integrity of federal institutions

Troubling events for Canada

Over the last couple of weeks, Canadians have witnessed a series of concerning events that have cast a long shadow over the integrity of our federal institutions.

From breaches in national security to the mishandling of crucial contracts, the incidents point to a pattern of negligence and lack of transparency and accountability from the current government.

As these controversies unfold, my Conservative colleagues and I are holding the government to account and demanding answers.

Past efforts by the current government to hide the release of documents on a potential Winnipeg lab security breach in 2021 included defying orders given by parliament, and the government taking the Speaker of the House to court. These documents were recently released.

The documents show that under the current federal government's watch, the People's Republic of China, including the People's Liberation Army, was allowed to infiltrate Canada's top-level lab in Winnipeg. That breach not only enabled the transfer of sensitive intellectual property but also allowed dangerous pathogens to be shared with China, posing a threat to our national security.

Particularly distressing is the federal government's decision to grant access to an individual deemed a "very serious and credible danger" to Canada's economic and national security. That decision represents a significant lapse in judgment and underscores a broader failure to protect Canadians' interests and security.

Conservatives continue to be unwavering in their commitment to upholding our national security. We are diligently reviewing every aspect of the disclosed documents to uncover the full extent of this breach and ensure that such a lapse in security never recurs.

On a different issue, the revelation that a Department of National Defence employee, who also served as the CEO of Dalian Enterprises, and was awarded a $7.9 million contract for the ArriveCAN app is alarming. It raises profound concerns about the Canadian government's procurement processes' integrity and potential conflicts of interest.

This incident is indicative of a worrying lack of oversight and accountability in the awarding of government contracts, and it casts a shadow over the trust Canadians place in their government to manage and spend their tax dollars wisely.

It was also revealed, by audits of the ArriveCAN app, where costs ballooned with contractor fees, there is a serious issue within government management and oversight of projects. I’ve questioned government officials and the minister responsible on another IT project, the Benefits Delivery Modernization program, where costs and (the number of) outside contractors have also ballooned.

This string of federal government scandals serves as a stark reminder of the need for vigilant oversight and unyielding accountability in governance.
Conservatives will continue to hold the government accountable and stand up for common sense. The trust of Canadians in the operations of government is paramount, and it is clear that trust has been increasingly compromised.

If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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Troubling questions surface about Ottawa's ArriveCan app

ArriveCan app scandal

The Canadian government's mismanagement and spending of taxpayer dollars on the ArriveCan app has raised serious questions and concerns.

The controversy centres around a contract awarded to a small IT firm of two people based in Ottawa, GC Strategies.

It’s been uncovered GC Strategies received at least $20 million to work on the app, with doubts it did any actual work on the app. GC Strategies was also involved in writing the rules for the government contract they ended up getting.

The app, which was first planned to cost $80,000, ended up costing taxpayers at least $60 million with the total amount unknown. This is 750 times the original price. An audit from the independent Auditor General of Canada on this, criticized the federal government’s poor management on the ArriveCan app.

The Auditor General's report showed while the cost of the app kept rising, the government couldn't determine the exact total cost or where all the money went due to the lack of clear financial records.

Two federal officials suspended over ArriveCan, testified there was an active and coordinated coverup of the paper trail and records. One unbelievable example alleges the government’s chief technology officer deleted tens of thousands of emails related to the app during his employment at the Canada Border Services Agency.
Government officials apparently received Amazon-sponsored ArriveCan bags with Amazon receiving $8 million on the ArriveCan project. In addition, federal government officials were invited to whiskey tastings and other luxurious treats from contractors hired to do work on the app.

Canada's procurement watchdog revealed 76% of the subcontractors involved in the ArriveCan app did not perform any work on the app.

Canada’s information watchdog is now investigating the ArriveCan app.
The RCMP is also looking into claims of corruption related to the contracts for the app and for what government officials called “sufficient suspicion” of criminal wrongdoing and a broad coverup.

The owners of GC Strategies have not cooperated with the investigation and ignored two legal summons to appear before the ethics committee. That refusal prompted Conservative MPs to take strong actions using the full force of Parliament’s constitutional powers and authority by getting a motion passed forcing the owners of GC Strategies to appear at committee within 21 days or face arrest by the Sergeant-at-Arms, the top security official of the House of Commons.

That was done despite of government MPs attempting to delay the investigation along the way through days of filibustering.

In situations like this, where there is a lack of clear accountability, Canadians naturally start to lose faith in the federal government's competence and intentions. It becomes hard for the public to trust their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

The federal government's role includes managing public resources responsibly and ensuring projects are completed efficiently and effectively. Canadians expect the federal government to use their tax money wisely, responsibly, with integrity, accountability and transparency.

Conservative MPs will continue to press to get to the bottom of this issue, as well as on other government expenditures, particularly with the use of external contractors.

If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is her party's critic for Employment, Future Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

She is a member of the national caucus committee’s credit union caucus, wine caucus, and aviation caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, worked for 27 years in the B.C. beverage industry.

She founded and owned Discover Wines VQA Wine Stores, which included the No. 1 wine store in B.C. for 13 years. She has been involved in small businesses in different sectors — financing, importing, oil and gas services and a technology start-up — and is among the “100 New Woman Pioneers in B.C."

Gray was a Kelowna city councillor for the 2014 term, sat on the Passenger Transportation Board from 2010-2012 and was elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the boards of the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library and was chairwoman of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

She volunteers extensively in the community and welcomes connecting with residents.

She can be reached at 250-470-5075, and [email protected]

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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