Canadians think feds aren’t doing enough to fight opioid crisis: poll

By . Published on Jan 11, 2018 3:00am

The Canadians who think federal and provincial governments in Canada aren’t putting enough resources into fighting the country’s opioid crisis outnumber those who say they’re responding adequately, according to new polling from Angus Reid Institute.

Fewer than a quarter of survey respondents — 23 per cent — said that the federal government has “responded appropriately,” while more than a third — 38 per cent — said it has put “too few” resources toward fighting the crisis. Eight per cent said the feds have put too many resources towards the problem.

The polling was done online through the Angus Reid Forum late last year, sampling 1,510 Canadian adults in November, and was released today along with another polling dataset collected in December that looked at responses from individual cities.

The opinion gap widens when undecided responses are removed: just over half think the federal response falls short, while a third say it’s doing enough to mitigate the crisis.

Public health officials have warned that the opioid overdose death toll for 2017 could surpass 4,000 Canadians.

Wednesday, at a town hall meeting in Hamilton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government has been acting to fight the crisis by making synthetic opioid alternatives available “in a controlled fashion” and by introducing more safe consumption sites across Canada.

“We recognize the serious of the opioid epidemic right now,” he said.

But critics have charged that Ottawa hasn’t done enough.

At a December House of Commons health committee meeting, NDP health critic Don Davies pressed the health minister over spending and resources, saying the federal government’s opioid response budget is less than the Public Health Agency of Canada’s communications budget during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak.

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu similarly criticized that the government is spending more on legalizing marijuana than combating opioid deaths.

“It just seems like those two [spending figures] are perhaps not in balance,” she said at the time.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor had told the committee addressing the opioid crisis is her “number one priority” as minister.

Meanwhile, one of the most high-profile government responses to overdose deaths received majority support in the polling.

It suggests there’s clear majority support for supervised consumption sites across Canada, which have been proliferating under the Liberal government since it passed legislation to expedite the site application process.

The poll also – surprisingly – suggests that Conservative supporters are largely divided over injection sites, with 54 per cent against and 46 per cent in favour. The party had strongly opposed them in its time in government. That said, the Conservatives have the biggest block of supporters who are opposed to the sites compared to the two other main parties.

The poll also said roughly one in eight Canadians say they are close to someone who has become dependent on opioids in the past five years, and most said the crisis is only going to get worse.

But that said, only a quarter actually said it’s a full blown “crisis.”

Four in 10 said it’s a “serious problem,” 19 per cent said it’s “a problem, but one among many others” four percent said it’s “minor” and 3 per cent called it “not much of a problem at all.”

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