Canada’s news cartel and social media link tax breaks an open internet and harms digital journalism

This week, I was invited on The News Forum’s “Daily,” a Canadian daily news show, to discuss the impact of C-18, which allows a media cartel to force social networks to pay a “link tax” for allowing articles on their platforms.

At the Consumer Choice Center, my colleague David Clement has previously written about this here and here, and it’s been a point of interest on Consumer Choice Radio for some time.

This is something that Australia already introduced in 2021, which I wrote about, and the US is currently discussing a similar proposal in the U.S. Senate, which my colleague Bill Wirtz also recently covered, as well as our fellow Dr. Kimberlee Josephson.

In the U.S., the bill is the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, spearheaded by competition foe Amy Klobuchar. A version in California, the California Journalism Preservation Act, is in committee in the State Senate, and it’s expected that Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign it.

The principal idea of this plan — no matter the country or language — is that tech companies are eating traditional media’s lunch. To “level the playing field,” tech firms must pay traditional media each time a story (or link) is shared on their platform. It looks like it’s Rupert Murdoch vs. Mark Zuckerberg, or pick your legally media titan vs. tech start-up CEO. But realistically, it’s government officials, working with legacy media outlets, versus YOU, the consumer.

This is, of course, not just an attack on free speech and bad public policy, but it also represents a fundamental shift in how we view the democratic nature of the Internet.

News outlets need social media to share stories, find their audiences, and to continue to support them. At the same time, it’s up to news outlets to come up with innovative models to thrive and compete. In Canada, like in many European countries, government subsidies have taken the place of real innovation.

But across the internet, platforms such as Substack, Patreon, Locals.com, YouTube, and now even Twitter are allowing individuals and media teams to offer up news products that consumers genuinely enjoy.

At the Consumer Choice Center, we advocate for consumers who embrace innovation, competition, and a wide variety of choice. New models of creative destruction are something we celebrate, and we as consumers benefit every step of the way.

We will continue to push back against the idea of news cartels, link taxes, or other unfair regulatory practices that seek to prop up one industry at the expense of another. Not only is it wrong, a waste of funds, and impractical, but it also seriously diminishes our ability to freely choose our chosen media as consumers.

That’s at least one thing worth fighting for.

Ottawa’s Concerning Escalation Against Big Tech Threatens Citizen Engagement

Ottawa, ON – This week Canada’s Heritage Committee moved forward a Liberal motion that will require tech companies like Alphabet (Google) and Meta (Facebook) to hand over their internal and external correspondence in regards to Ottawa’s Bill C-18, which would require these companies for pay publishers when news links are posted on their platform.

In response, the Consumer Choice Center’s Toronto based North American Affairs Manager David Clement stated: “C-18 is a big mistake on the part of Ottawa. Not only does the bill have the relationship between tech platforms and publishers backwards, sharing links on social media generates free ad revenue for publishers through page visits, the Bill now threatens Canadian’s access to news. To make matters worse, Ottawa’s demands for all internal and external correspondence sets a chilling precedent for any NGO, union, trade association or charity that opposes a piece of legislation.

“If Ottawa proceeds in demanding internal and external email correspondence from these companies, it would be a significant step backwards for citizen engagement, which is a key part of Canadian democracy. If this precedent is set, a future government could simply deem any non-governmental opposition to a bill as “subversive” and require the disclosure of private emails. If a major trade union opposed a piece of labour reform, a future government could shake the union down by forcing the union to hand over their internal emails with members, their external emails with legal counsel, their emails with members of the public, and even their correspondence with journalists,” states Clement.

“It would appear as though the Liberal party is failing to anticipate the precedents they are setting today can and will be used by their political opponents tomorrow. A future Conservative government could in theory use this precedent to squash opposition from patient advocacy groups, environmental NGOs, or labour unions. A future NDP government could use this precedent to stifle dissent from business associations, taxpayer advocacy groups, and those who represent the voices of small businesses. This is a clear case of incredible government overreach, one that could fundamentally shift the nature of political engagement in Canada for the worse,” concluded Clement.

***CCC North American Affairs Manager David Clement is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries to david@consumerchoicecenter.org.***

$143 Million Cannabis Bust Confirms Diversion From Medical Program To Illegal Marke

On October 22nd, Ontario Provincial Police announced that they have seized $143 million worth of illegal cannabis in the last 4 months. In addition to that, police confirmed that the seized cannabis was a result of criminal networks exploiting Health Canada’s medical cannabis personal and designate production regime.

David Clement, Toronto based North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center responds: “The OPP’s report confirms was we speculated in April, which is that organized crime has weaseled its way into the permit process,” said Clement.

“In April, via Access to Information Requests, we were able to show that the personal and designate program produces 2.5 – 4.5 times more cannabis than the legal market. Unfortunately that excess cannabis is being diverted into the illegal market. Health Canada should review the permit process to ensure that criminal networks aren’t using it to fuel their nefarious activities.

“That said, the government shouldn’t target legitimate permit holders. Doing so would violate their constitutional rights, and would be exceptionally cruel given how marginalized this group has historically been. Rather than trying to arrest their way out of the problem, the government should focus on transitioning permit holder growers into the legal market. Making it easier for for excess cannabis to end up in the legal market, coupled with a Health Canada review for criminal activity, would go a long way in stamping out the black market,” said Clement.

Originally published here.

Ontario’s cannabis curbside pick-up and delivery options to end with emergency measures

“It is completely unacceptable that the province is making the cannabis market less consumer friendly,” says David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center

Ontario cannabis retailers have had to be flexible through a series of evolving regulations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

When emergency measures were implemented, some were delighted that cannabis was deemed an essential service and retailers could continue operating. In April, cannabis was briefly dropped from the list of essentials — only to be re-added, with more flexibility for physically distanced transactions, like curbside pickup and delivery. Services like Leafly and Dutchie partnered with retailers to help facilitate purchases and distribution, while others made a go of it on their own with custom-built solutions.

But now, curbside and delivery will no longer be an option for Ontario’s private retailers once emergency measures are no longer in place, reports BNN Bloomberg.

“It is completely unacceptable that the province is making the cannabis market less consumer friendly,” said David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center, in a statement. “Banning curbside pick-up and delivery options ultimately makes the legal market less attractive, which only serves to embolden the illegal market, who have long offered these services.”

While it hasn’t been proven that legal cannabis deliveries impede the illicit market, retailers who have invested in implementing new technologies and welcome any and all ways to move product, are similarly unhappy.

“To take away that opportunity for customers that want to use a delivery or a curbside (pickup) – which we’re still seeing as a pretty significant piece of our business – to take that away and force people to now have to interact and go into stores, when realistically there’s no reason for it … doesn’t make a lot of sense,” James Jesty, president of Friendly Stranger Holdings Corp., told MJBiz Daily.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks are now mandatory indoors in public spaces in many, but not all, parts of the province. Delivery will continue to be available through the Ontario Cannabis Store, the province’s ecommerce site and wholesale supplier to private retailers.

Originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Ontario to allow cannabis retailers to sell online and over the phone

Cannabis retailers will soon be able to sell products online or over the phone for in-store pick-up as the Ontario government adopts a “click-and-connect” sales model to expand access to legal marijuana.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips announced the proposed changes in the government’s fall economic statement Wednesday, saying they will decrease waits for cannabis and help combat the black market.

The shift comes as the Progressive Conservative government pledges to lift a cap it imposed on the number of cannabis stores in Ontario.

“All of the provincial jurisdictions are learning and trying to make sure that we take the best approach,” Phillips said. “Our priorities are getting rid of black market cannabis and safety in our communities.”

The government had initially said there would be no cap on the number of retail pot shops after cannabis was legalized. That decision marked a change of course from the previous Liberal government, which created the Ontario Cannabis Store and had planned to tightly control cannabis sales through government-owned stores similar to the LCBO.

But a supply shortage prompted the Tory government last December to cap the initial number of pot retail licences to just 25 so operators would be able to open.

The number of legal pot outlets in Ontario is increasing from 25 to 75 this fall.

The government also said Wednesday it will allow licensed producers to have retail stores on each of their production sites to further increase access.

The Tories had planned to allow that after coming to power in 2018 but did not enact the necessary regulations when the supply shortage caused them to cap the number of retail stores.

The government said Wednesday it will amend legislation and provincial regulations to make the changes but has given no immediate timeline when they will take effect.

Omar Yar Khan, a vice president at strategy firm Hill+Knowlton who advises cannabis sector clients, said the changes will help encourage customers to move from the black market to legal retailers.

“In an era where customers are used to an Amazon Prime experience … anything the government can do to allow these legal markets to reach consumers on channels they’re already on is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Khan said the government needs to uncap the retail market if it wants to continue to fight the illicit market.

“They need to move fast on that, and I think they will,” he said.

One consumer advocacy group praised the move towards “click-and-connect” sales but said the government could have gone further.

“It makes the legal market more consumer-friendly by increasing access and allowing consumers to place orders and pick them up … but it would be that much better if they coupled that with the ability for stores to provide deliver services,” said David Clement, manager of North American affairs for the Consumer Choice Center.

Clement said the changes that allow pot producers to open retail space could create a tourism industry around cannabis.

“If you go to brewery or a distillery, often you can take a tour or talk to the master brewer,” he said. “That on-site selling opportunity has been used to provide consumers with other experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov, 6th. I was posted on Yahoo Finance here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 

Ontario cannabis lottery was a disaster. It should be the last

Ontario’s second cannabis retail lottery on Aug. 20 was set up to license an additional 42 stores, which would bring the province’s retail market to the unreasonably low total of 75 stores. Compare that to Alberta, which has 277 licensed cannabis retailers to serve a population of 4.3 million (30 per cent of Ontario’s). The small number of legal stores is a huge problem for Ontario given the persistent nature of the black market. Consumers need retail access in order for the legal market to crowd out the illegal market, and Ontario is clearly behind.

The Ontario cannabis lottery system has been nothing short of a complete disaster. In the second round, there have been numerous issues and peculiarities that are concerning. For each lottery entry, a physical address was required. Once the lottery results were announced, it became quite clear that the system was gamed by those who wanted to submit numerous applications. In one instance, a specific location was entered into the lottery 173 times, with the average amount of entries per winning address a staggering 24 times. This gamesmanship has led some toaccuse the system of being stacked against small businesses, because larger entities could afford to submit hundreds of entries at $75 an entry.

While it is understandable that a prospective business would want to increase their odds of getting chosen, by submitting multiple applications, the mess that the lottery has created clearly shows that the lottery system was a mistake to begin with. On Oct. 1, 2018, then-Ontario Attorney-General Caroline Mulroney explained that Ontario’s cannabis retail market would be one that was uncapped. Specifically, she said: “To ensure we combat the illegal market effectively, the total number of retail store authorizations will be limited only by market demand. We believe this is the right approach.”

An uncapped retail licence system would significantly aid in consumer access, which would ultimately make the legal market more attractive than the black market. Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government obviously knows this, which makes one wonder why they are waiting so long to move ahead with the plan.

At several points, the provincial government has stated that supply issues, caused by the federal government, is the justification for the slow approach. Specifically, the government worries that if too many storefronts are allowed, while supply issues exist, that many stores will go out of business. There are certainly supply issues that are created, or at least maintained, by the federal government. That said, the claim that those supply issues justify so few storefronts doesn’t add up.

Supply issues aren’t a proper justification for limiting licences because the Ontario government doesn’t act this way for other businesses that sell age-prohibited goods such as alcohol licences for restaurants, bars, or clubs even though the failure rate for these businesses is more than 60 per cent. The prospect of business failure isn’t a particularly convincing justification for the lottery once you factor in how the province handles alcohol licences.

Beyond the hypocrisy of how the government deals with different industries, the lottery is also misguided because there isn’t evidence that the shortages are really limiting profitability for storefronts. Again, looking at Alberta, it becomes clear that whatever the supply shortages may be, they aren’t bad enough to significantly damage the retail market. Despite being significantly smaller in size, the Alberta cannabis market actually outsold Ontario from Oct. 17, 2018, the day it was legalized, to June, 2019. In that time period, Alberta outlets sold $123-million worth of product, while Ontario sold $121-million. This is relevant because it clearly shows that the Alberta retailers can manage through supply issues, so much so that they can outsell a province that is three times larger. If Alberta can have profitable stores having one store for every 15,000 people, then Ontario can certainly do better than having one store for every 190,000 people.

The Ford government initially made the right decision to make Ontario’s retail system uncapped. The retail market should be whatever the market can bear, and the government should treat these retailers as they do restaurants. Having a lottery was a mistake and holding a second lottery was a disaster. In response, the Ford government should announce, as soon as possible, that August’s lottery was Ontario’s last, and that an uncapped market is in the near future.

David Clement is the North American affairs manager with the Consumer Choice Center

BRAUN: Beer and wine in subway newsstand shops?

Turns out the posters are from Choice and Fairness, a collective of convenience and other stores, craft beer and wine retailers and consumers, all working together (and in tandem with the Ontario government) to expand sales of beer, wine and cider. The Retail Council of Canada, Convenience Industry Council of Canada, Ontario Convenience Stores Association and consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Centre are among those involved.

Read more here

Opinion: The Liberals are blowing smoke with claim they ‘wiped out’ half of illegal cannabis market

Opinion: About 80% of all cannabis bought in Canada is being purchased on the illegal market, far from the 50% figure claimed

The federal election is just a few months away, which means Canadians are going to be bombarded with claims from the government about its apparent successes, while at the same time hearing endless counter arguments from opposition parties. In this sea of endless noise, it can be difficult to parse out where the federal government actually stands on its claims, and whether the opposition parties have legitimate grievances, or are just opposing for the sake of opposing.

When election day does come, Canada will be a year in to cannabis legalization, which gives us a good opportunity to reflect on how things have gone thus far. Legalization is smart policy overall. That said, at nearly the one-year mark, there is lots to reflect on regarding Canada’s cannabis legalization experiment.

Just last week new StatsCan figures came out in regards to consumer behaviour and cannabis usage. Some interesting facts emerged, like the fact that men are two times more likely to consume cannabis than women are, and that men are more likely to use cannabis for non-medicinal reasons. In addition to usage patterns, StatsCan revealed that 48 per cent of cannabis consumers surveyed said they purchased some of their cannabis in the legal market. As soon as the report came out, Trudeau’s right-hand man, Gerry Butts, and senior policy adviser Tyler Meredith, were quick to pat themselves on the back for “wiping out half of the illegal market.” Wiping out half of the illegal market would be incredible, and something worth congratulating, if it were true.

The first issue with their claim is that Canadians surveyed had to self report, meaning they had to admit to committing an illegal act in order to fall into the “purchased illegally” category. Anyone who has taken an introductory research methods course knows that this percentage is almost certainly undervalued, with the real percentage of illegal purchasers being much higher. In fact, StatsCan data from the same report hints at that very fact, with 37 per cent of consumers saying they got their cannabis from family and friends. Facing the reality of admitting to a crime, it is likely that many of those surveyed opted for the family and friends option, over admitting to making illegal purchases. Ironically, the report cited by Butts and company actually explains that less than 30 per cent of cannabis consumers purchase exclusively in the legal market.

Beside the issue of self reporting, both Butts and Meredith made their 50 per cent claim based on data that doesn’t actually mean that half the illegal market is gone. It is fantastic that nearly 50 per cent of consumers self reportedly purchased some cannabis legally, however, that figure doesn’t actually mean that half the illegal market has been wiped out. This type of analysis is incredibly sloppy, because it doesn’t take into account the quantity of cannabis purchased. The past StatsCan quarterly snapshot showed that Canadians spent $5.9 billion on cannabis, with the black market accounting for $4.7 billion of that total. Thus, approximately 80 per cent of all cannabis bought in Canada was done so in the illegal market, which is far off from the 50 per cent figure being touted by Liberal party brass.

Canadians are smart enough to know when their government is telling half truths for the purpose of misdirection 

There are a variety of reasons why the illegal market is still persistent in post-legalization Canada. Those reasons largely come down to three factors: price, access and product variability. For each of those factors, the federal government failed to put consumers first when creating Canada’s legal framework. For price, it has been well documented that illegal cannabis is getting cheaper, while legal cannabis is heading in the opposite direction. The price gap between legal and illegal cannabis is largely a combination of poor federal policy compounded by provincial mistakes. Legal cannabis, at the federal level, has GST applied to it, a 10 per cent excise tax, and half a billion dollars in compliance fees for producers. These taxes and fees, in addition to provincial boutique taxes, are in large part why legal cannabis is upwards of double the price of illegal cannabis.

For access, the federal government’s overly cautious approach has significantly hampered the consumer experience for those who do purchase legally. Anyone who has been into a legal store right away sees the sterile nature of Canada’s legal market. Products can’t be seen in advance by consumers, and when they do get their product, their purchase is in overly paternalistic plain packaging. On top of that, the marketing and advertising restrictions for legal cannabis more closely mirror tobacco restrictions, when they should be more in line with how alcohol is marketed. All of these federal rules treat adult consumers like children, and take the fun out of the legal industry. This matters because the legal industry has to be more attractive than the illegal industry, and it’s hard for the legal industry to do so with its hands tied behind its back.

A cannabis package with a child-resistant zipper=like opening. Supplied

Lastly, is product variability. The federal government made the mistake of legalizing only dried cannabis and oils on legalization day. It misguidedly gave itself a one-year buffer to roll out edibles, extracts and topicals. Failing to legalize all product varieties only serves the black market. Simply put, the more variety in products available to consumers on the legal market, the easier it is to pull consumers away from the black market. Again, stamping out the black market, like the Liberals claim they have, depends on making the legal market more attractive, but that becomes nearly impossible when federal policy is wrapped in paternalistic nonsense.

The federal election is on the horizon, and the SNC-Lavalin scandal is back in full force. Fictional ad man Don Draper once said, “if you don’t like what people are saying about you, change the conversation.” This appears to be what Liberal party brass are trying to do with their braggadocious cannabis claims. The problem is that Canadians are smart enough to know when their government is telling half truths for the purpose of misdirection. This is exactly what is happening, and we can all see it.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here

Breakenridge: Paying for plasma — the rules need an update

 A poll commissioned by the Consumer Choice Centre and released last week showed that 63 per cent of Canadians — including 65 per cent of Albertans — believe that the compensation of plasma donors is morally appropriate.

Read more here

Canadians support paying blood plasma donors – survey

A majority of Canadians support paying people for donations of plasma, which are blood products used to make specialized medicines, a new poll has found.

Sixty-three per cent of Canadians endorse the idea as “morally appropriate” while support is strongest, at 75 per cent, among those between the ages of 18-34.

But a narrow majority of older Canadians, age 55 and up, believe paying people for plasma donations is “morally inappropriate”.

The donation of plasma is similar to blood donations, but the process takes longer, about two hours instead of 30 minutes.

Because of a lack of plasma supply in Canada, about 75 per cent of it used in this country comes from the U.S., where donors are paid.

Last week, Canadian Blood Services announced plans to open three plasma-only donation centres, including one in Kelowna scheduled to open in the spring of 2021, to try bolster the country’s supply.

The B.C. NDP government banned paid plasma in 2018, and similar bans exist in Alberta and Ontario.

The new survey, commissioned by the Consumer Choice Centre, found that 56 per cent of B.C. residents support paying plasma donors as “morally appropriate. Although a majority, that was the lowest level of support found in Canada’s six main regions.

Supporters of a ban on paying people for plasma donations say it may negatively affect blood donations, exploits the poor, and violates human dignity because blood should not be paid for.

Those who support payment for plasma donations say the process is safe, with no transmission of any diseases from paid-for plasma donors in the past 20 years, and it would address Canada’s plasma shortage.

Plasma, a yellow liquid that houses red and white blood cells, is increasingly used to make a variety of medicines for the treatment of conditions and illnesses such as burns, respiratory diseases, and immune deficiencies.

The usage of one plasma protein product, immune globulin, has doubled internationally over the past decade.

David Clement, Toronto-based representative of the Consumer Choice Centre, said in a release the results of the new opinion poll should convince governments the public supports payment for plasma donations.

“We have long argued that allowing compensation for blood plasma donors was overdue, and now we know that Canadians from coast to coast agree,” Clement said in a release.

In Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where paid plasma clinics operate, donors are typically paid between $30-$50.

Donors must go through medical screening to ensure they’re healthy. Their plasma is subject to the same kind of analysis and treatment as other donated blood products to ensure it’s safe to use.

Read more here

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