The final Yukon candidates’ forum for the territory’s MP position took place at the Coast High Country Inn in Whitehorse on Oct. 16. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Drug crisis, electoral reform addressed at Yukon candidates’ forum

CBC North hosted the event on Oct. 16

The final Yukon candidates’ forum saw potential MPs wade into hot-button issues like electoral reform and drug use, two topics presenting a chasm between some.

Conservative candidate Jonas Smith said he doesn’t support safe injection sites — that quelling the drug crisis means getting tough on crime.

He said the police and courts should have “the tools they need to keep criminals off the streets.”

There were murmurs from some in the audience at the Coast High Country Inn on Oct. 16 following comments like these, with CBC’s Dave White, who moderated, asking the crowd to let the candidate finish.

“Disagree all you want, but that’s my position,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, I think it’s the public government’s duty to spend tax payer dollars to help people get better. I do not support public money going to buy drugs.”

The Liberal Party’s Larry Bagnell said drug addiction is a health matter, not a crime.

“If you don’t have a place where you can go to safely inject drugs, then they do it somewhere, they overdose and they die, they go somewhere unsafe,” he said.

Bagnell went over Liberal initiatives spurred to mitigate the problem, including $11 billion for mental health and addiction services across the country and a $500,000 agreement signed with the Yukon government for opioid treatment programs.

Justin Lemphers, candidate for the NDP, said people grappling with addiction should be better supported.

This takes the form of “safe and adequate supports in communities.”

“Addiction is also a mental health issue,” he said. “Dealing with those two together is what we believe in and we have a plan to do that. And I think it’s time we take the stigma out of drug addiction.”

The Green Party’s Lenore Morris said the war on drugs hasn’t worked for decades, that a better approach is required.

She said drug possession should be decriminalized. Morris supports more safe injection sites.

“It’s treated as a health care issue, not as a crime and we think that’s the only way to solve the problem.”

Smith circled back to the question later on when immigration issues were being addressed, saying he also “appreciates the health side of things. I think it’s important to appreciate why people become addicted in the first place.”

Candidates were also asked their stances on electoral reform, particularly Bagnell, since the Federal Liberal Party didn’t follow through with its election promise in 2015 to implement changes.

“We should have never made any promise that we’re not gonna keep,” Bagnell said, noting that the decision to not move ahead on the issue came as a “total surprise” to him.

He didn’t answer whether electoral reform would be pursued again.

Lemphers said electoral reform would be revisited under an NDP government.

He said a mixed member proportional representation system “is the best answer,” adding that the changeover would make parliament more diverse and equitable.

“It increases (participation) of populations that have been traditionally marginalized and the voices of those populations,” he said. “It addresses inequality in our political system. I believe that’s necessary for us to do. We should vote for the people that you trust to truly represent what you care about.”

“So our proposal to you, to Canada, is let’s try it … and then we’ll talk to you and say, ‘How did that work for us?’”

Morris said her party would push for electoral reform, adding that the Greens were the first in the country to advocate for proportional representation.

“It’s clear to just about everyone that parties that get whether it’s 10 or 20 per cent of the vote should get 10 or 20 per cent of the seats,” she said. “It makes no sense at all to be in the situation we’re in now.”

Smith said he would keep the status quo of first-past-the-post.

“I think if there was a better system out there, we would have figured it out already,” he said. “I think it is no coincidence that the parties that most actively and vocally advocate changing the system are the parties that continuously are unable to attract a plurality of Canadians to support their platform(s).”

Joseph Zelezny, candidate for the People’s Party of Canada, said he’d push for direct democracy, “where there’s just more engagement, because there’s so much distrust, and that’s the whole point of the People’s Party of Canada existing is that people have given up on the Liberals. …”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

federal election

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP are making an appeal for information in the case of Mary Ann Ollie, who was murdered in Ross River last year and whose case remains unsolved. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson outside the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)
When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read