Calgary

Cocaine-snorting executives driving drug trade: Alberta solicitor general

Fast-living executives and middle-class people who get high at parties are partly to blame for driving the drug trade and increasing gang activity, Alberta's solicitor general said Thursday.

Fast-living executives and middle-class people who get high at parties are partly to blame for driving the drug trade and increasing gang activity, Alberta's solicitor general said Thursday.

Fred Lindsay said he has been told by police that the province's booming economy has fuelled an appetite for illegal drugs among executives in Alberta's office towers.

Well-off Albertans who use illegal drugs are just as guilty of contributing to the problem as the street gangs who sell them, he said.

"We know that there's people in the upper-middle-class and middle-class jobs who are using these drugs," Lindsay said in an interview.

"But they don't relate to the fact that by the use of their drugs — whether it's crack, cocaine or even marijuana – it contributes to the gang and the organized crime activity that we see on the streets."

The solicitor general was responding to recent pressure from police chiefs in Edmonton and Calgary for more government money to recruit hundreds of new police officers.

But hiring more police alone won't break the crime cycle, he said. What's also needed is for Albertans to stop buying drugs to feed their addictions.

"Looking at the amount of illegal drugs that are being used in our province, it's not all used by the people down on the street level."

Lindsay said new legislation is allowing police to target drug-impaired drivers and his message to all Albertans is that users will be charged.

Comments catch business leaders by surprise

The solicitor general's remarks appeared to take business leaders by surprise.

Both the Calgary and the Edmonton chambers of commerce refused to discuss Lindsay's remarks.

Ken Kobly, president of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, said he's known Lindsay for 20 years and was surprised by his remarks.

"I think the comments are unfortunate and I don't think they're particularly well-founded," Kobly said in an interview. "I don't think any social status or any income level is immune when it comes to drug abuse.

"Certainly those types of comments are not all that productive in tackling the issue of drug abuse in the province."

Alberta's drug abuse agency made no official comment on Lindsay's remarks.

But Korey Cherneski, a spokesman for the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, did offer some statistics from a 2004 survey by several health agencies.

Of 2,400 Albertans surveyed, Cherneski said, 4.2 per cent who reported a high income also reported using one or more illicit drugs other than marijuana. Just under five per cent who reported a low income used one or more illicit drugs.

Edmonton police Chief Mike Boyd, who is also president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, could not be reached for comment.