Monday, January 15, 2007

Ideology or value

CanWest reports that if the Cons were really interested in ensuring value for money within Canada's justice system, it would put additional money toward harm prevention strategies rather than cutting those in a push for stricter drug enforcement:
A new study published today says roughly three-quarters of federal spending to fight illegal drugs is going towards unproven and possibly counterproductive enforcement measures while an insignificant amount is being spent on potentially more effective "harm-reduction" measures...

"While the stated goal of Canada's drug strategy is to reduce harm, evidence obtained through this analysis indicates that the overwhelming emphasis continues to be on conventional enforcement-based approaches which are costly and often exacerbate, rather than reduce, harms," states the report in HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review, a publication funded partly by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the American Bar Association.

Meanwhile, federal funding to deal with health issues such as rampant HIV infection rates among addicts is "insignificant," the study notes.

"This stands in stark contrast to recent comments made by various stakeholders suggesting that there has been an over-investment in harm-reduction programming."

The comment was in direct reference to a statement by the Canadian Police Association on the same day, Sept. 1, 2006, that federal Health Minister Tony Clement questioned preliminary research suggesting Vancouver's supervised injection site for drug addicts is effective..., analysing publicly available documents, said 73 per cent, or $271 million, of the $368 million spent by Ottawa in 2004-05 went towards enforcement measures such as border control, RCMP investigations and federal prosecution expenses.

Of the remaining $97 million, $51 million went to treatment, $26 million was spent on "co-ordination and research," $10 million went to prevention programs, and $10 million was devoted to harm reduction...

The study says the proportion of federal spending on enforcement has dropped from 95 per cent in 2001 to the most recent figure, 73 per cent, after the former Liberal government responding to criticism from the federal auditor-general and other critics that Canada's drug strategy was unco-ordinated and ineffective began emphasizing alternative anti-drug strategies such as harm reduction...

(M)ore intense enforcement measures push drug users outside urban centres, where they have less access to needle exchanges and treatment, and cause more violence, property crime, and high-risk injecting behaviour, according to the study.
But unfortunately, the Cons' interest in saving money seems limited to cutting programs which could actually be beneficial rather than in considering the costs and benefits of their own drug strategy (among other policy areas). And unfortunately, it'll be left for a future government to deal with the real costs of their ideology.

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