File this under: totally clueless politicians.
In the midst of an opioid crisis that is reported to have claimed the lives of more than 400 Albertans in 2016, Calgary-Confederation Member of Parliament Len Webber told the House of Commons Health Committee last week that opposition to the potentially lifesaving facilities was comparable to opposition to oil pipelines.
Here is Webber’s shockingly tone deaf response to Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies during a discussion about Bill C-37 on February 9, 2017:
I don’t need five minutes. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It was really just a thought here. I think Mr. Davies’ intention here is to try to make the application process for safe injection sites easier.
Would you be in a similar position, Mr. Davies, if we were sitting around the table here talking about application processes for pipelines in Alberta? To apply for a pipeline is extremely onerous. It’s extremely burdensome and time-consuming. It can often take years.
We fought hard as Conservatives to try to make it easier to get pipelines built throughout this country, but we’re not talking about pipelines here today; we’re talking about safe injection sites.
Would you agree, Mr. Davies, that it is very onerous to put in a pipeline in this country? Would you be in favour of making it an easier process to put pipelines in, just as you would like to have safe injection sites put in without consultation from the community?
Basically, I see the changes here giving the minister the power to basically overrule any community consultation or community decisions, whereas communities opposing pipelines is something the minister can’t overrule.
The thought is there. I was just thinking that in Alberta we are having a very difficult time trying to get pipelines put in place, and you are here talking about how you want to make it easy to put in safe injection sites. I think it’s very important that we have community consultation, that we have approval from all areas with regard to getting these sites put in place. I know there are some communities that would be opposed to safe injection sites, yet the minister can overrule the desire of the community.
I don’t support what you’re doing here, Mr. Davies, in your motion or your amendments. However, I am making again the comparison between pipelines and safe injection sites. I may not have explained it quite clearly, but you know what I’m thinking here. It’s very onerous for pipelines, yet you want it to be very simple for safe injection sites.
If you’re willing to make it easier for us in Alberta, we can make it easier for you to put in safe injection sites throughout the country.
Webber was first elected to parliament as a Conservative in 2015 and previously served as a Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-Foothills from 2004 to 2014. Between 2009 and 2011 he served as Alberta’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. He does not hold a critic position in the Conservative Official Opposition Caucus in Ottawa.
Update: Len Webber issued a statement in response to the backlash created by his comments at the parliamentary health committee.