Manitoba Liberals release addictions plan, secure vocal advocate to run in Brandon East
Kim Longstreet joins party leader in release of plan to tackle addictions
The Manitoba Liberal Party released its plan Friday to tackle addictions in Manitoba if elected in September's vote — the same day it announced a vocal advocate for addictions services will carry the party's banner in Brandon East.
Dougald Lamont was joined by Kim Longstreet in the Wheat City and told reporters that a Liberal government would create a drug stabilization unit where people in meth withdrawal can be safely held in order to detox, as well as focus on public awareness and prevention.
"There's been a lot of foot dragging and denial," Lamont said of the current Progressive Conservative government's response to the meth crisis.
"As it got worse and worse, they've basically been putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg," he added. "It is nowhere near meeting the actual demand when the wait times for addictions beds for women (are) over nine months, for men its weeks."
Longstreet was nominated on Friday to run for the Liberals in Brandon East. The seat is held by Progressive Conservative MLA Len Isleifson, who defeated New Democrat MLA Drew Caldwell in 2016. The seat had been held by the NDP since it was created in 1969.
Isleifson is set to run for the PCs again in this election, while former city councillor Lonnie Patterson will carry the NDP banner.
"We're incredibly excited," said Lamont of Longstreet's nomination. "She's a fantastic leader in the community … it couldn't be better to have someone of her calibre and leadership stand up.
"It shows we are serious about Brandon, we are serious about the issues and we are serious about changing politics and changing government in Manitoba," he added.
Longstreet has advocated for increased addictions services after learning her son became addicted to meth in 2014. Since then, she has organized forums, meetings and other community events to raise awareness about meth and other illicit drugs in Brandon.
"I reached out in 2017 into my community to start raising awareness about what I knew was an issue based on my loved one's struggle," she said. "The fact of the matter is there was no resources, there was no services available.
"While we've made some strides in that direction, we're nowhere near the capacity that we need to make a dent in this crisis that we're seeing in the province."
Longstreet said she's met with all three leaders of Manitoba's political parties. She also shared her story with a national committee in Ottawa.
"I use my voice," she said. "I use my voice and my will as a mom who has made it her mission to ensure no other families have to struggle and feel what I did those two years ago when I realized there was nothing and nobody was doing anything about it."
Treatment and harm reduction
Lamont said the Liberals would create a system that ensures a continuum of care for those seeking treatment for addictions if elected.
The party would also extend recovery times in public treatment beds, fund transitional housing and expand harm reduction programs. The plan also calls for a public awareness campaign.
"This is crisis and the premier has often been completely out of touch," said Lamont. "This is a serious problem and it requires a serious response."
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Progressive Conservative party pointed out "a number of initiatives and services that will curb the distribution of illicit drugs in our province and help those suffering from addiction."
In an emailed statement, the spokesperson said the PC government has invested nearly $2.5 million in Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinics in the province. It also cited the establishment of a drug treatment court in Brandon and the pending opening of flexible length withdrawal management beds in Brandon and Winnipeg.
In June, the Progressive Conservative government announced plans to spend $2.7 million on addictions and mental health treatment, as well as $1.23 million per year to increase capacity and hours at RAAM clinics.
They also will spend $985,000 annually on 16 addictions treatment beds for women, and half a million each year on the Strongest Families Institute, which offers distance coaching for families working through mental health issues.
Still, Lamont said it isn't enough.
"It is nowhere near meeting the actual demand when the wait times for addictions beds for women it's over nine months, for men its weeks," said Lamont.
The New Democrats, meantime, released a report earlier this year that called for investments to reduce poverty, a safe consumption site in Winnipeg and 50 new treatment beds to combat the crisis.
Lamont said his party plans to use a portion of the revenue from legal cannabis to fund its promises. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries estimated in September 2017 that it cannabis could make the province as much as $12.8 million in the first year, rising to $94.8 million in the fifth year.
With files from Ian Froese and Up to Speed