Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The federal parties all vastly different approaches to drug policy.


With days to go before Canada’s 43rd general election, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer once again suggested on Thursday that the Liberals are looking to decriminalize hard drugs. They’re not. But the accusation highlights the federal parties’ vastly different approaches to drug policy.

Between January, 2016, and March, 2019, more than 12,800 Canadians died of apparent opioid-related overdoses.

The public health crisis has devastated communities across the country and is particularly pronounced in the west: B.C. has recorded roughly 1,500 deaths in each of the past two years – more than six times the provincial average in the 2000s. Alberta lost 705 people to opioid-related overdoses in 2017 and 795 in 2018.

Story continues below advertisement

The death toll is so staggering that it has lowered the country’s life expectancy for the first time in more than four decades. In B.C., life expectancy has fallen for two consecutive years.

Here’s what the parties say they will do.

The Liberal Party

After forming government following the 2015 election, the Liberal Party repealed legislation introduced by the previous Conservative government that made it more difficult to open supervised drug-use sites, with then-health minister Jane Philpott hailing the move as the beginning of a new federal strategy on substance-use disorder. There are now 39 of the harm-reduction sites operating across Canada.

Since then, the party has also reduced barriers to opioid substitution therapy with diacetylmorphine (pharmaceutical-grade heroin) and made it easier for practitioners to provide methadone. It legalized cannabis, making Canada the largest country to do so.

Looking forward, the Liberal Party says in its platform that it will invest in community-based services, treatment beds and the scaling up of the most effective programs, and “make drug treatment court the default option for first-time non-violent offenders charged exclusively with simple possession.”

Both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Liberal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor have repeatedly rejected calls to decriminalize drug possession, despite Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer claiming otherwise. Supporters of decriminalization say it would help people with addictions break a cycle of recidivism, remove the stigma of drug use and help facilitate access to treatment.

The party has said it will proceed on the issue of “safe supply” – that is, helping provide a regulated, quality-controlled source of drugs. This past summer, Ms. Petitpas Taylor announced $33.6-million in funding for safe-supply initiatives, for which it has been accepting applications.

Story continues below advertisement

The Conservative Party

The Conservative Party has pledged in its platform to “reorient” existing drug-related legislation so that all policies have abstinence-based recovery as their objective. It says it will invest in “recovery community centres, recovery high schools, and treatment centres.”

It would also spend $30-million over three years on a national campaign to educate Canadians on “the dangers of drug use and the benefits of staying drug free."

The party says it would also require full body scans of people entering prison to prevent drugs from being smuggled in and end needle-exchange programs in prisons.

On supervised drug-use sites, Mr. Scheer has said on numerous occasions that there must be community engagement. However, these sites already require extensive community consultations as part of the application process.

The party says it would also hire 250 more border officers and call for more inspections of shipments coming from China, where most of Canada’s illicit fentanyl, and its analogues, are manufactured.

The New Democratic Party

The NDP was the first major Canadian party to advocate for drug decriminalization. In 2017, then-leadership hopeful Jagmeet Singh told The Globe and Mail he would “call for the immediate decriminalization of all personal possession offences when it comes to drugs, period,” and in 2018, NDP MP and health critic Don Davies introduced a resolution to that effect at the party’s national convention. It passed.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Singh has stopped short of expressing explicit support for safe supply, saying only that he is “open to any conversation about any solution that is going to save lives.” The NDP says in its platform it would declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

The party says in its platform that it will work with provinces to support supervised drug-use sites and expand access to treatment on demand. It will also launch an investigation into the role that drug companies may have played in fueling the opioid crisis and seek compensation for public-health costs.

B.C. has already launched a proposed class-action lawsuit on this matter that has received the backing of provinces across the country.

The Green Party

The Green Party says it will decriminalize drug possession. A September news release announcing the party’s position on this matter said that “decriminalizing drug possession will ensure that people have an access to a safe, screened supply.” However, decriminalizing only means that there would be no criminal penalties for possessing personal amounts of illicit drugs. It does not ensure a safe supply, which would only come from regulating currently illicit drugs or providing a safe alternative.

The party’s platform does not mention safe supply, but a spokesperson for Green Leader Elizabeth May says she does support it.

The party says it will also increase supports for mental health and addiction, increase funding to community-based organizations to test drugs and make naloxone kits more widely available to treat overdoses.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies