09/26/2013 12:31 EDT

Conservatives Attack Health Canada Heroin Decision In Fundraising Push


Canadians infuriated that the Harper government would allow heroin to be given to certain addicts are being encouraged to give money… to the Conservative Party of Canada.

On Friday, Health Minister Rona Ambrose slammed Health Canada — her own department — for a decision to provide heroin to certain addicts under a special access program meant to help patients in exceptional cases get medication not normally allowed in Canada.

Global News reports Health Canada approved funding for 16 addicts to receive medically administered heroin.

"This decision is in direct opposition to the government's anti-drug policy and violates the spirit and intent of the special access program," Ambrose said in a statement.

"I am taking immediate action to protect the integrity of the special access program and ensure this does not happen again."

Now, in what may be seen as a strange twist, Tories are using the controversy to raise fundraising dollars.

Annie Bergeron-Oliver of iPolitics reported Monday that less than 24 hours after Ambrose publicly condemned her own department, a mass email was sent to Tory supporters encouraging them to sign an anti-heroin petition on a party website.

The page reiterates the Harper government's tough-on-drugs approach, asks for names and email addresses, and throws digs at both New Democrats and Liberals.

From the site:

We're going to take steps to make sure this never happens again – but we need your help.

If the NDP or Liberals are elected in 2015, you can bet they would make this heroin-for-addicts program permanent.

We can't let that happen. We'll keep fighting to keep our streets and communities safe, but we need your support.

Will you stand with us?

NDP health critic Libby Davies told iPolitics the Tories are behaving in a "sickening" and opportunistic manner by fundraising on this issue.

"I feel like this is a government that is abandoning any notion of public policy divisions, based on real evidence and expert advice," she said. "Everything they do is wrapped in a partisan ideological message."

Davies also accused Ambrose of playing politics with "life and death" situations for chronic drug users.

"Medicalized heroin maintenance has been used very successfully and in places like Europe is seen as part of treatment," Davies said.

The Toronto Star's Susan Delacourt wrote Thursday that the strategy suggests Tories are again trying to cast themselves as outsiders in power and "a political force in need of cash to combat decisions by its own public servants."

Of course, this isn't the first time Conservatives have played this kind of card.

Just last month, Tories encouraged those unhappy with their wireless rates to put pressure on the prime minister through Consumers First – a website intended to drum up support for increasing wireless competition in Canada.

"We're putting consumers first and standing up for choice in Canada's wireless industry – are you with us?" the page asks.

But, as pointed out by HuffPost Business, after providing a name and email address, the user is then thanked for signing a "petition."

As Delacourt notes, all three main federal parties are increasing their fundraising efforts before Sept. 30 — the deadline to have donations recorded for the third quarter of 2013.

Those numbers may paint a clearer picture of where each party stands as Canadians begin to look to the next federal election, expected in 2015.

What do you think? Is it inappropriate for Conservatives to fundraise on this issue or is it fair game? Tell us in the comments.

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