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Month: September 2021

Destaque: Parlamento Europeu envia carta em defesa da PI à Câmara e ao Senado

Foi protocolada nesta quinta-feira, 23 de Setembro, uma carta enviada do Parlamento Europeu aos Presidentes da Câmara dos Deputados, Arthur Lira, e do Senado Federal, Rodrigo Pacheco. Na carta, 11 membros do Parlamento Europeu expressam suas preocupações com relação ao futuro da propriedade intelectual no Brasil após a Lei nº 14.200 de 2 de setembro de 2021, que prejudica o ambiente de propriedade intelectual (PI) no Brasil, ser aprovada. A carta questiona como as indústrias europeias, de muitos setores que dependem de proteção de PI, podem investir e comercializar no Brasil. A carta teve apoio do grupo internacional de defesa dos consumidores Consumer Choice Center e da Frente Parlamentar pelo Livre Mercado.

“Temos uma relação comercial muito próxima com o Brasil, e por isso estamos preocupados com o caminho que o Brasil vem seguindo no que diz respeito às leis de propriedade intelectual” disse em nota Gianna Gancia, MEP. “Países com fortes regimes de PI estimulam a inovação e a criatividade e são necessários para o crescimento econômico, a competitividade e a criação de empregos. Infelizmente, a PL nº 12/2021, e a consequente Lei nº 14.200, não ajudam o Brasil a cumprir os objetivos traçados na Estratégia Nacional de Propriedade Intelectual” concluiu Gancia.

“A exigência existente no PL nº 12/2021 que determinava que as empresas compartilhassem os seus segredos comerciais não tem precedentes e é inconsistente com as obrigações de proteção de segredos comerciais do acordo TRIPS. Forçar a transferência de tecnologia negaria aos inovadores a certeza e a previsibilidade necessárias para investir com confiança e acelerar o lançamento de novos produtos no Brasil” disse o Deputado Paulo Ganime, coordenador de Inovação da Frente Parlamentar pelo Livre Mercado. Para ele, “o governo acertou em vetar essa parte do texto, que poderia prejudicar a nossa credibilidade. O mais importante agora é garantirmos que o veto será mantido”, acrescentou.

Para Beatriz Nóbrega, Secretária Executiva da Frente Parlamentar do Livre Mercado, “existem alternativas melhores para criar no Brasil um ambiente que promova a inovação, o investimento estrangeiro direto e o acesso a novos produtos. Queremos ampliar as parcerias comerciais do Brasil no exterior e para isso precisamos honrar nossos acordos internacionais e buscar políticas que protejam a inovação e a criatividade, com o objetivo de deixar claro que no Brasil há estabilidade jurídica.”

Para Fábio Fernandes, Diretor de Comunicação da associação de consumidores Consumer Choice Center (Centro de Escolha do Consumidor), esta mudança na Lei preocupa muito os consumidores e pacientes brasileiros, pois decidirá o futuro da inovação nos campos da tecnologia, agropecuária e medicina.

 “Os consumidores estão preocupados com a possibilidade de novos produtos, tecnologias e medicamentos não estarem disponíveis no Brasil por uma insegurança jurídica. A lei de propriedade intelectual no Brasil está de acordo com o padrão internacional porém essa nova lei, somada à recente decisão do STF sobre o Artigo 40 da Lei de PI, pode enfraquecer esse direito pondo em risco o futuro da inovação no Brasil” afirmou Fernandes.

“Vacinas para o setor de agropecuária, remédios contra o câncer, componentes de informática como microchips para celulares, e até inteligência artificial são alguns exemplos de produtos e inovações que podem atrasar ou até mesmo nunca chegar ao mercado brasileiro” concluiu Fernandes.

Fonte: Fabio Fernandes Consumer Choice Center

Originally published here

Parlamento Europeu envia carta em defesa da PI à Câmara e ao Senado

Brasília, BR – Foi protocolada hoje, quinta-feira, 23 de Setembro, uma carta enviada do Parlamento Europeu aos Presidentes da Câmara dos Deputados, Arthur Lira, e do Senado Federal, Rodrigo Pacheco. Na carta, 11 membros do Parlamento Europeu expressam suas preocupações com relação ao futuro da propriedade intelectual no Brasil após a Lei nº 14.200 de 2 de setembro de 2021, que prejudica o ambiente de propriedade intelectual (PI) no Brasil, ser aprovada. A carta questiona como as indústrias europeias, de muitos setores que dependem de proteção de PI, podem investir e comercializar no Brasil. A carta teve apoio do grupo internacional de defesa dos consumidores Consumer Choice Center e da Frente Parlamentar pelo Livre Mercado.

“Temos uma relação comercial muito próxima com o Brasil, e por isso estamos preocupados com o caminho que o Brasil vem seguindo no que diz respeito às leis de propriedade intelectual” disse em nota Gianna Gancia, MEP. “Países com fortes regimes de PI estimulam a inovação e a criatividade e são necessários para o crescimento econômico, a competitividade e a criação de empregos. Infelizmente, a PL nº 12/2021, e a consequente Lei nº 14.200, não ajudam o Brasil a cumprir os objetivos traçados na Estratégia Nacional de Propriedade Intelectual” concluiu Gancia.

“A exigência existente no PL nº 12/2021 que determinava que as empresas compartilhassem os seus segredos comerciais não tem precedentes e é inconsistente com as obrigações de proteção de segredos comerciais do acordo TRIPS. Forçar a transferência de tecnologia negaria aos inovadores a certeza e a previsibilidade necessárias para investir com confiança e acelerar o lançamento de novos produtos no Brasil” disse o Deputado Paulo Ganime, coordenador de Inovação da Frente Parlamentar pelo Livre Mercado. Para ele, “o governo acertou em vetar essa parte do texto, que poderia prejudicar a nossa credibilidade. O mais importante agora é garantirmos que o veto será mantido”, acrescentou.

Para Beatriz Nóbrega, Secretária Executiva da Frente Parlamentar do Livre Mercado, “existem alternativas melhores para criar no Brasil um ambiente que promova a inovação, o investimento estrangeiro direto e o acesso a novos produtos. Queremos ampliar as parcerias comerciais do Brasil no exterior e para isso precisamos honrar nossos acordos internacionais e buscar políticas que protejam a inovação e a criatividade, com o objetivo de deixar claro que no Brasil há estabilidade jurídica.”

Para Fábio Fernandes, Diretor de Comunicação da associação de consumidores Consumer Choice Center (Centro de Escolha do Consumidor), esta mudança na Lei preocupa muito os consumidores e pacientes brasileiros, pois decidirá o futuro da inovação nos campos da tecnologia, agropecuária e medicina.

“Os consumidores estão preocupados com a possibilidade de novos produtos, tecnologias e medicamentos não estarem disponíveis no Brasil por uma insegurança jurídica. A lei de propriedade intelectual no Brasil está de acordo com o padrão internacional porém essa nova lei, somada à recente decisão do STF sobre o Artigo 40 da Lei de PI, pode enfraquecer esse direito pondo em risco o futuro da inovação no Brasil” afirmou Fernandes. 

“Vacinas para o setor de agropecuária, remédios contra o câncer, componentes de informática como microchips para celulares, e até inteligência artificial são alguns exemplos de produtos e inovações que podem atrasar ou até mesmo nunca chegar ao mercado brasileiro” concluiu Fernandes.

Pentingnya Pragmatisme untuk Memerangi Rokok

Konsumsi rokok merupakan salah satau permasalahan kesehatan pubik yang besar yang saat ini melanda berbagai negara di seluruh penjuru dunia, termasuk juga Indonesia. Sudah menjadi pengetahuan umum bahwa, mengkonsumsi rokok merupakan salah satu penyebab berbagai penyakit kronis yang dialami oleh jutaan orang di seluruh dunia, seperti kanker dan penyakit jantung.

Oleh sebab itu, kebijakan untuk menanggulangi dampak dari rokok ini merupakan salah satu kebijakan yang sangat umum yang diberlakukan oleh berbagai pemerintahan di seluruh dunia. Kebijakan tersebut sangat bervariasi, mulai dari kebijakan yang cukup longgar, seperti larangan iklan, kewajiban memasang peringatan di bungkus rokok, dan larangan memasang logo, hingga kebijakan yang sangat ketat seperti larangan total konsumsi produk tembakau.

Strategi pembatasan dan pelarangan ini sekilas memang merupakan hal yang terlhat masuk akal dan bisa diterima. Bila kita ingin banyak orang untuk berhenti menggunakan produk-produk tertentu yang terbukti berbahaya misalnya, maka langkah yang dianggap tepat adalah dengan memastikan masyarakat tidak bisa mendapatkan akses terhadap barang tersebut, atau setidaknya memberi disinsentif kepada masyarakat untuk tidak mengkonsumsi produk tersebut melalui informasi di label produk.

Tetapi, bukan berarti lantas anggapan yang sekilas terlihat masuk akal tersebut merupakan sesuatu yang tepat dan sesuai dengan kenyataan. Melarang masyarakat untuk mengubah perilakunya yang berbahaya seperti mengkonsumsi rokok tidaklah semudah membalikkan telapak tangan.

Bhutan misalnya, merupakan salah satu negara yang melarang penjualan dan konsumsi rokok pada tahun 2010. Tetapi bukan berarti permasalahan konsumsi rokok di negara Himalaya tersebut menjadi selesai. Kebijakan pelarangan rokok justru memicu banyak perdagangan rokok ilegal. Pada tahun 2020, Bhutan akhirnya perlahan mulai mengizinkan warganya untuk membeli rokok melalui perusahaan yang dimiliki oleh negara untuk melawan perdagangan rokok ilegal (dfnionline.com, 7/9/2020).

Hal ini tentu bukan merupakan hal yang mengherankan untuk kita yang mengetahui sedikit sejarah mengenai kebijakan prohibisi. Berbagai kebijakan untuk melarang produk-produk yang dianggap berbahaya, seperti minuman keras dan rokok misalnya, niscaya akan berakhir pada kegagalan, sebagaimana kebijakan prohibisi minuman keras yang diberlakukan di Amerika Serikat pada dekade 1920-an. Kebijakan tersebut justru semakin memperkuat organisasi kriminal dan mafia seperti Al Capone, yang akhirnya menjadi penyedia produk ilegal tersebut.

Terkait dengan kebijakan disinsentif kepada pengguna rokok, seperti kewajiban memasang gambar dampak rokok terhadap kesehatan di bungkus rokok misalnya, keberhasilannya juga masih dipertanyakan. Deborah M. Scharf dan William G. Shadel dari Rand Corporation misalnya, menulis bahwa hampir tidak ada dampak langsung dari kewajiban pemasangan gambar tersebut dengan efek terhadap para konsumen rokok (rand.org, 30/7/2014).

Scharf dan Shadel juga menuli bahwa, ada berbagai macam faktor yang sangat kompleks yang menentukan bagaimana konsumen akan bereaksi terhadap berbagai kebijakan yang ditujukan untuk mengurangi konsumen rokok tersebut. Tidak mustahil juga bahwa, kebijakan tersebut akan membawa dampak yang berkebalikan dari tujuannya, dengan membuat para perokok merasa defensif sehingga mereka menjadi tidak memperhatikan peringatan tersebut. Berdasarkan laporan, tidak sedikit juga para perokok yang “berkreasi” dengan menutup gambar peringatan tersebut agar mereka tidak perlu melihat gambar tersebut (rand.org, 30/7/2014).

Untuk itu, dibutuhkan langkah lain bila kita ingin menanggulangi dampak dari rokok, serta mengurangi konsumsi dari produk yang berbahaya tersebut. Kita harus mampu dan berani untuk mencoba berbagai solusi lain melalui pendekatan yang pragmatis ketimbang dengan terpaku pada ide-ide tertentu yang sudah terbukti gagal.

Sejarah sudah membuktikan bahwa, praktik konsumsi produk-produk yang membahayakan bagi kesehatan tidak bisa dilakukan melalui kebijakan yang keras seperti pembatasan hingga pelarangan total. Untuk itu, cara pragmatis yang paling memungkinkan untuk menekan dampak dari konsumsi tersebut adalah apabila ada produk lain yang dapat digunakan para perokok untuk berpindah dan memiliki dampak negatif yang jauh lebih kecil.

Saat ini sudah ada beberapa produk alternatif tersebut yang bisa kita temukan dengan mudah, khususnya kita yang tinggal di kota-kota besar. Salah satu produk tersebut yang kerap digunakan sebagai cara harm reduction strategy, atau strategi untuk mengurangi dampak negatif dari rokok itu sendiri, adalah rokok elektronik, atau yang dikenal juga dengan nama vape.

Penggunaan vape sebagai bagian dari harm reduction strategy memang merupakan hal yang menimbulkan pro dan kontra, di mana tidak sedikit yang berpandangan bawah vape merupakan produk yang sama bahayanya, atau bahkan lebih berbahaya, dari rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Pandangan ini jelas adalah pandangan yang sangat keliru.

Pada tahun 2015 lalu, lembaga kesehatan publik asal Inggris, Public Health England (PHE), mengeluarkan laporan terkait dengan dampak vape terhadap kesehatan. Dalam laporan PHE tersebut, disebutkan bahwa produk vape 95% jauh lebih aman bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar (Public Health England, 19/8/2015).

Laporan ini tentu merupakan sesuatu yang sangat penting dan patut kita apresiasi. Adanya produk yang mampu menjadi alternatif rokok yang terbukti jauh lebih aman adalah berita yang sangat baik, dan memberi kesempatan bagi para perkok untuk memindahkan konsumsinya ke produk yang lebih aman.

Penggunaan vape sebagai produk alternatif dalam rangka harm reduction strategy bukanlah sesuatu yang hanya hadir di teori saja, melainkan juga sudah dipratikkan di negara lain. Inggris misalnya, mengkampayekan penggunaan vape untuk membantu para perokok menghentikan kebiasaannya yang sangat berbahaya. Kebijakan tersebut terbukti sangat sukses, dan melalui strategi harm reduction dengan menggunakan vape, 1,5 juta warga Inggris telah menghentikan kebiasaan merokoknya (consumerchoicecenter.org, 21/7/2020).

Sebagai pentutup, langkah dan strategi pragmatis merupakan hal yang sangat penting bila kita ingin mengurangi jumlah populasi perokok. Jangan sampai, kita terlalu terpaku pada ide dan pandangan tertentu, sehingga kita tetap mengimplementasikan kebijakan yang sudah terbukti gagal, sehingga tidak mampu membantu kawan-kawan kita yang perokok untuk menghentikan kebiasaannya yang sangat berbahaya.

Originally published here

Congress Wants to Copy Some of the EU’s Worst Food Rules. That’s a Bad Idea

There is simply no argument in favor of copying EU food regulations.

Legislation looming in the US Congress could emulate European food standards by copying European agricultural regulation. PACTA (Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act), legislation sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders would outlaw any pesticide that is illegal in either European Union member states, the European Union itself, or Canada.

To many Americans, Europe represents the epitome of culinary civilization, and it’s true that Italian standards for pasta, French standard for bread, and Spanish standards for seafood often far outrank what the average restaurant will serve in the United States. But with that said, we shouldn’t confuse the presence of prime cooking schools in France with a better food market. Europe’s increasing hostility towards crop protection in the form of pesticides is not going to do itself any favors.

A cornerstone of the EU’s continuous ambitions to revamp its food regulation is the “Farm to Fork Strategy,” known as F2F. This strategy, which is part of the “European Green Deal,” is a roadmap for a set of package bills set to hit the EU’s legislature in the coming years. Two of its cornerstone proposals are a reduction of pesticides by 50 percent by 2030, and increasing organic food production to 25 percent by 2030 (it is currently at about 8 percent).

The European Commission has yet to release an impact assessment on what the Farm to Fork strategy would mean for farmers and consumers. Despite repeated calls from EU parliamentarians, it has been unable to provide hard numbers backing up the political argument that these environmental reforms would also be good economically. Thankfully, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) did its own study. In fact, when the USDA made an impact assessment, it found that, if implemented, F2F would result in a 12 percent reduction in agricultural production in Europe and increase the prices of consumer goods by 17 percent in the EU, by 5 percent in the US, and by 9 percent worldwide.

In addition, the USDA also found that in the adoption scenario, trade flows would be reduced, and that Europe’s GDP would decline significantly as result of the increase in food commodity prices (Europe’s GDP decline would represent 76 percent of the overall global GDP decline as a result of F2F).

Developing nations would also be hard hit. Because as a result of these stringent food rules, the EU would implement protectionist measures.

“By 2030, the number of food-insecure people in the case of EU-only adoption would increase by an additional 22 million more than projected without the EC’s proposed Strategies,” USDA concluded.

You could ask why it all matters, since Europeans do pay less for food that apparently is also cooked better. It is true that grocery shopping in Germany can be quite eye-opening to Americans—a pound of wild-caught smoked salmon costs anywhere between $10 and $20 in America (or more), while in Germany those prices vary between $2 and $10. Most of that is because the United States does not shower its farmers and fishers with the same lavish farm subsidies that Europe does. While the US also subsidies farmers, research shows that Europe “out-subsidises” the States by a long shot. So while supermarket prices are lower for consumers, it’s the tax returns of Europeans that tell the real story. In countries such as Belgium, effective income tax rates (with social security) are upwards of 50 percent. In fact, single Belgian workers are the highest taxed in the entire OECD, and they are closely followed by those in Germany and France, both nearing the 50 percent mark. And this doesn’t even go into detail of how the European Union uses its farm subsidies to undercut producers in developing markets and, as the New York Times put it, how oligarchs milk these millions of farm subsidies for their own benefit.

Reducing pesticides by political decree rather than through innovative technology is a non-scientific approach. If the argument of the European Union were that with modern farm equipment, such as smart-sprays, the amount of pesticides could be reduced because farmers are able to make their use more efficient, then that would be a forward-thinking approach. Instead, the 50 percent reduction target looks good on a poster, but has little to do with evidence-based policy making. After all: if the existing 100 percent are bad for human health, why only restrict 50 percent, and not the entirety of all these substances?

Incidentally that is what the EU did on a large scale with neonicotinoids, by banning certain ones for farming use. Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are insecticides that are essential for farmers not to lose a significant amount of their crops each season. In December last year, the French parliament voted for a three year suspension of the ban on neonics, because sugar beet farmers were risking going completely out of business over crop losses. The bans exist in Europe because neonics have been accused of harming pollinators.

The “Bee-pocalypse” in the early 2000s was blamed first on GMOs, then subsequently on neonics when the GMO argument was quickly found to be false. But neonics also aren’t at fault. Bee colony reductions and disappearances occur naturally and periodically throughout history. In fact, there were sporadic bee colony declines all throughout (recorded) history, namely the 19th and 20th century, before neonics were first introduced in 1985. In fact, not only are bees not affected by neonics, they aren’t even declining.

As the Washington Post reported in two separate articles in 2015—”Call Off the Bee-pocalypse: U.S. Honeybee Colonies Hit a 20-Year High” and “Believe It of Not, the Bees Are Doing Just Fine,” the hysteria of global bee declines are simply inaccurate. You can even do this for yourself: visit the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) website, select “beehives” in the visualised data section, and click on any country or region you like. Most countries and regions have a steady upwards trend in the prevalence of bees. In the United States, the bee population is actually set to double in the coming years compared to the 1960s level.

So why lie about it? Why is it such a prevalent narrative that GMOs (or any given pesticide of the day) kill the bees? The argument is politically convenient, but not scientifically sound. In Europe, the enemies of modern agriculture have a view of the world that does not match the society of comfort and availability. The EU’s Green Deal Commissioner Frans Timmermans bemoaned in May last year (mind you this is at the height of the first COVID-19 lockdown) that “we’ve gotten used to food being too cheap.”

He didn’t mean that agriculture subsidies were out of proportion, but rather that being able to buy meat or fish on any given day and for low prices were problematic in nature. For a man paid $30,000 a month for his Commission job, while Romanian consumers paid upwards of 20 percent of their income on food, that’s the definition of tone-deaf.

In the United States, availability and competition are key. Also, while Europe’s dreams of a world where nature politely sends no insects to eat our crops, no mold to befall food stocks, and where no other natural conditions could endanger food security, the United States has always enabled scientific innovation. Case in point, the US is far ahead on developing genetic engineering, while Europe lags behind.

There is simply no argument in favor of copying EU food regulations.

Originally published here

States: The Next Battleground in the Switch to EVs

There is no doubt that the electric vehicle revolution is here, especially after President Joe Biden’s executive order outlining the target of making half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 to be EVs. Although this is an exciting step forward in reducing emissions that contribute to the climate crisis, Biden’s bold proposal is destined to fail if outdated state regulations remain on the books. Specifically, dealer franchise laws that ban direct-to-consumer sales for electric vehicles.

Currently, 29 states have regulations that either limit or completely ban consumers from purchasing vehicles directly from a manufacturer. If you live in one of the 17 states that has a complete ban, that means you can only purchase an EV from a licensed dealership. This outdated law, which does nothing but protects the dealer franchise model from innovative competition, all but ensures consumers in those states don’t have access to vehicles manufactured by companies like Tesla, Rivian, Lucid, and Lordstown. For example, in order for a consumer in Alabama to purchase an EV from one of those manufacturers, they would have to buy their car in Florida, load it on a flatbed, and drive the flatbed to an Alabama DMV office to register it. If the bans and onerous hurdles remain in place, it is naive to think Biden’s mandate would be even remotely achievable.

What makes these bans on direct-to-consumer sales even more problematic is that consumers are already purchasing cars online, in the used vehicle market, which is legal nationwide. We have seen an increase of online vehicle purchases as consumers prefer the transparent pricing, quick buying process, and convenience of having their vehicle delivered directly to their home. So the question remains if you can buy a used car online, what justification could exist to ban you from buying a new EV online?

The answer is uncomfortable where state politicians are beholden to the dealer franchise model and the power they flex in lobbying state lawmakers. It is an irritating, yet simple, example of the existing industry lobbying to restrict consumer access to maintain its market share.

Getting rid of outdated laws would drastically expand consumer choice, and help lower prices, but the benefits are not limited to one’s pocketbook. In addition to financial considerations, allowing for direct-to-consumer sales eliminates the possibility of a car salesperson inflicting any personal biases they may have onto the buyer, making the experience more comfortable for consumers as a whole.

Another glaring issue with the direct-to-consumer sales bans is they often limit or ban EV companies from having service centers throughout all 50 states. For example, if you own a Tesla in South Carolina and need it to be serviced, you will have to drive to another state to visit a service center. Depending on what needs to be done to the vehicle, that could pose a significant safety risk for all drivers and passengers on the road. Eliminating the direct-to-consumer sales ban is crucial as it will not only increase EV accessibility for consumers but will also help keep America’s roads safe.

Beyond problematic direct-to-consumer sales bans, consumers are often hit with exorbitant registration fees when they purchase an EV. As it stands, 28 states currently have higher registration fees for EVs than for standard gasoline vehicles. Ohio, for example, charges $31 to register your standard passenger vehicles, $100 for hybrid vehicles, and $200 for fully electric vehicles, which is actively discouraging consumers from owning EVs. Those higher registration fees were created to offset the state’s lost revenue from gas taxes to help pay for infrastructure and administrative costs, but it is unfair that EV consumers who make the greener choice and use less gas are being forced to carry the financial burden. Instead of perpetuating revenue-generating penalties onto EV consumers, a better path forward would be embracing technology neutrality in registration fees by treating standard passenger vehicles and EVs the same, which is the approach Florida has taken.

Although some consumers want access to EVs, Biden’s executive order won’t help them get it if changes aren’t made at the state level. In order to reach the ambitious 2030 goal, Biden should work with states to reduce the harsh regulatory barriers currently preventing consumers from fully accessing and embracing electric vehicles. If these laws aren’t changed, the EV boom may end up fizzling out.

Originally published here

Alabama has less than one percent of registered electric vehicles in U.S.

A study ranked the state among the worst places for EV infrastructure and financial incentives.

An analysis of data on electric vehicle demand and existing infrastructure in each state rated Alabama 31st in registered electric vehicle ownership but next to last in terms of ease of use and benefits of having one.

The study was conducted by Bumper, an online marketplace for used vehicles, and scored states in 10 categories — five related to infrastructure and five related to financial incentives. 

Read the full article here

Partly-free lunches might not be a bad idea. So why don’t the Liberals like it?

If having fully vaccinated people eat indoors at restaurants is so dangerous, how on earth is it safe (or appropriate) for us to be having an election?

To say the hospitality sector in Canada has been decimated by the pandemic would be a huge understatement. Across the country, and especially in major cities like Toronto, restaurants were forced to close for in-person dining for more than a year and to operate with significant capacity limitations when they were allowed to be open. How bad has it been for restaurant owners in Canada? A nightmare, according to the numbers.

Restaurant Canada’s latest survey of members shows that 80 per cent of all food-service operators in Canada have taken on debt over the course of the pandemic. For businesses in the hospitality sector who have taken on debt, which includes the food service industry, the average amount incurred is a whopping $333,174.

Over half of restaurants are currently operating at a loss, while more than a quarter of those that have taken on debt say their business will fail if current conditions don’t change. That level of business failure isn’t just a worry for the folks who may lose their businesses. It’s a worry for the large numbers of Canadians who rely on employment in the food sector to make ends meet.

The food-service sector is by far the most common first job for Canadians entering the workforce. Prior to COVID 1.2 million Canadians worked in the sector. To lose a significant chunk of those businesses, the services they offer and the jobs they provide, including that vital stepping-stone for new workers, would be a big blow to our country’s economic recovery.

What can be done to give the sector the boost it needs? Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole proposes a “Dine and Discover” program that would offer Canadians a 50 per cent rebate on food and non-alcoholic beverages purchased Monday thru Wednesday, for a period of one month once it is safe to do so. The policy may seem a little quirky, but it is borrowed directly from the U.K. Conservative party’s playbook.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson implemented a similar rebate scheme, called “Eat Out To Help Out,” that also offered a 50 per cent rebate, Monday thru Wednesday, capped at 10 pounds. The result was impressive, with 100 million cashed-in rebates injecting 522 million pounds into the hospitality industry. Compared to 2019, consumers ate out twice as often when the rebate was in effect.

Given the importance of the hospitality sector, you can see why O’Toole would want to try to get things moving again. And while his proposal can certainly be criticized from a fiscally conservative perspective, the response from Liberal partisans has been puzzling. For example, Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, tweeted that O’Toole was “virtue signalling the middle class” and that the program was bound to become a super-spreader event.

The mental gymnastics here are interesting, first because O’Toole’s plan clearly states that the program would only be implemented “when it is safe to do so.” The U.K. plan was rightly criticized for causing an increase in the spread of COVID19, but it was implemented before we had any vaccines at all. At the moment, 78 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, and that figure will likely rise with the introduction of vaccine passports in almost every province.

If having fully vaccinated people eat indoors at restaurants is so dangerous, how on earth is it safe (or appropriate) for us to be having an election? In opposing what is a fairly centrist policy of targeted support for a sector impacted by the pandemic, the Liberals have shown the folly this snap election is. But turn their logic around. If it is safe to have an election with indoor gatherings in violation of provincial health orders, it must also be safe to incentivize vaccinated Canadians to head back to restaurants. You can’t have your cake, and eat it, too, not even if that cake is 50 per cent off Monday to Wednesday.

Originally published here

Michael Bloomberg is coming for your vape

Here’s a question: If you knew that millions of dollars were being spent in order to deprive people in developing countries of the same innovative technologies used in developed countries, would you be outraged?

What if those efforts were spearheaded, funded, and shepherded by a billionaire former New York City mayor? Meet Michael Bloomberg, the swashbuckling businessman and politician whose money is making waves around the world…and not always in a good way.

Recently, documents have uncovered how Bloomberg-affiliated charities have been halting life-saving technologies from being legalized and regulated in developing countries like India, the Philippines, China, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and more.

The Bloomberg Brigade have used powerful rhetoric on the need to eliminate smoking as a literal smokescreen for eliminating or severely restricting all non-combustible nicotine alternatives, including vaping devices, heat-not-burn devices, nicotine pouches, and more – alternatives that are known to be much less harmful than smoking.

This is putting millions of lives in jeopardy.

Let’s stand up for harm reduction to save lives and stand against paternalism that is depriving consumers of choice.

Sharing economy in COVID-times – Sharing economy series, part 2

Welcome to the CCC’s sharing economy series. In this series of short blog posts, I elaborate on what the sharing economy is, present the main findings of the Sharing Economy Index, and look at potential future regulations surrounding these services. 

The current pandemic has had a huge impact on the delivery of sharing economy services. As was discussed in the previous blogpost, online platforms have demonstrated exceptional adaptability and have gone above and beyond to make sure consumers continue to see value in using them. 

While some sectors of the sharing economy, like ride-sharing and home-sharing, have suffered immense losses due to strict lockdowns around the world, others have increased their profits and proved to be invaluable. For example, delivery apps became an essential part of our everyday lives. With restaurants being closed, the fear of virus transmission, and difficulty of travelling due to transport restrictions, we found ourselves relying on delivery services. 

To avoid human interaction at the delivery point, Doordash, an online food delivery platform, like many others, introduced a contactless delivery option that can be requested both by the customer and the deliverer. According to Statista, in the second quarter in France, restaurant delivery users increased by 24% compared to pre-pandemic numbers. In the US, delivery companies also reported growth in their revenues. Combined revenues from the four major delivery companies, Uber Eats, Doordash, Postmates, and Grubhub, from April-September 2020 was double the amount during April-September 2019.

Professional car-sharing services experienced a huge drop in demand during lockdowns, but once people started to get back on the move rather than opt for public transportation they placed more trust in car-sharing services as it entails low risks of virus transmission. Share Now increased their hygiene measures, and they have been cleaning and disinfecting their cars four times more than usual. Peer-to-peer car-sharing platforms, like Turo and Getaround, have also bounced back from pandemic-related setbacks. To reassure people into using their services again they eased cancellation policies and introduced additional cleaning measures.

As demand for services dropped drastically, many companies had to cut losses. Uber, for example, had to lay off thousands of employees to reduce operating expenses, most of those employees being customer service agents, and had to close 45 offices globally. Lyft, another ride-sharing company and Uber’s biggest rival, had to let go of 17% of its workforce.

To comply with new covid restrictions introduced by the local governments, Uber and Airbnb changed and adapted their processes. Uber made it obligatory to wear masks while riding, and before ordering a ride, you have to confirm you will be wearing a mask during the ride. Airbnb introduced additional safety measures and made it a requirement for hosts to carry out a 5 step cleaning process between the guest stays. 

Overall, despite the doom and gloom of the pandemic, the sharing economy managed to survive and continue to innovate. These unprecedented times were more challenging for some than for others. While some services, like ride-sharing and home-sharing, had to lay off a significant amount of their workforce, delivery platforms saw record-breaking demand for their services. 

The next blogpost in our series will discuss some of the controversies surrounding sharing economy platforms and how governments are trying to regulate this innovative sector.

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