MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY — The candidate running for the People’s Party of Canada in the Red Deer-Mountain View riding says a greater emphasis on establishing family and community roots is crucial to curbing rates of crime and addiction.
“The crux of it is, I’m running because I believe that we need to get back to family and community. Society, as a whole, we’ve moved away from that,” Kelly Lorencz, who owns an acreage west of Innisfail near the Dickson Dam, told The Albertan.
“And especially with COVID right now, we’re dealing with a lot of struggles with family issues and addictions,” Lorencz, who serves in federal corrections, said on Thursday, Aug. 26.
With a background in corrections, the married father who has called the Red Deer-Mountain View riding home for some 23 years and at one point worked at West Fraser Sundre Forest Products when the saw mill was still called Sunpine, said he deals all too frequently with the issue of addiction.
“We’ve seen suicide and addiction rates sky rocket in Alberta,” he said.
Although addiction and overdose-related deaths indeed appear to have increased in this province throughout the pandemic, suicide rates in 2020 on average declined across Canada, including Alberta.
While Lorencz seemed to agree that safe consumption sites are an important part of the harm reduction strategy to save lives, reduce the spread of disease and connect addicts with recovery services, he said the much bigger issue “is the lack of availability for treatment programs. Typically, addicts have to wait three, four months just to get a bed in a treatment program, and that’s where we’re falling short for these individuals.”
And that’s if they can even afford the program, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Of course recognizing that delivering health-care services falls under provincial governments’ responsibilities, the federal government can still play a role by way of making more funds available.
“It really comes down to prioritizing how we’re spending our money,” he said. “If we’re really truly dedicated to helping these people recover from their addiction, then we need to start addressing it more, both in the public eye and privately. And that’s not being done.”
Asked whether crime should be dealt with by expanding police services and building more prisons or instead addressing the root causes of criminal behaviour, which typically stem from poverty and soaring wealth inequality, he said, “Quite often, I talk to offenders that are in the federal system, and they don’t have anybody — they’ve lost that sense of family, they’ve lost that sense of community.”
Having grown up in a broken home with an often absent father, Lorencz candidly spoke about his experience and his gratitude to having loving and supportive role models such as aunts and uncles.
“We need to start taking care of one another. If we address the family issues and the community issues, that will start addressing crime issues, addiction issues. It’s sort of a snowball effect,” he said.
Also a former member of the Canadian military who served a tour in Rwanda in the 1990s during the humanitarian crisis that led to genocide, Lorencz said veterans’ issues are also close to his heart.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in 2018 that his government continued to contest some Canadian veterans in court “because they’re asking for more than we are able to give right now,” the Liberal Party leader’s words did not resonate well with Lorencz.
“I whole-heartedly disagree,” he said. “We’re willing to put our lives on the line for our country. And we don’t question that. But when we need help — such as mental health issues and addiction issues — we’re asking too much?”
Lorencz, who was a co-writer of the PPC’s veterans’ policy, believes his background as a former member of the military as well as his career in corrections provide valuable experience that could bring positive change to Canada's capital.
“I feel like I can contribute a lot in Ottawa based off of my experience with all of these different areas, to bring some really solid common sense solutions,” he said. “The people of Red Deer-Mountain View deserve a strong, loud voice in Ottawa.”