Ontario's Progressive Conservatives were aghast to find a taxpayer-funded Queen West community health centre in downtown Toronto issuing kits with crack pipes and accessories and instructions to help addicts smoke the highly addictive drug with less risk of spreading HIV, AIDS and hepatitis A and B.
"It's a step-by-step guide...how to smoke crack," said house leader Bob Runciman, a former solicitor general.
"Why are Ontario taxpayers stuck with the bill for enabling drug abuse?" he asked in the legislature's daily question period.
Health Minister George Smitherman said there is a need to "strike a balance" in dealing with drug addiction because of the health problems it creates.
"Drug addiction is not strictly a matter of criminal justice," Smitherman added, noting there is no proof the money spent on the kits, which include alcohol wipes and matches, is from the provincial treasury.
Aside from instructions on how to use the pipes made of Pyrex, the "harm reduction kits" include instructions on how to properly light the rocks of crack and use the alcohol wipes to clean the pipe's mouthpiece before sharing it, and gives the advice: "try to pay your bills before you score."
Runciman pressed the government to guarantee no provincial funds will be used for such kits given that police say about half the alarming number of killings in Toronto this year are between members of gangs trying to control the crack market.