Province unveils its first economic outlook and fiscal review

THE SAULT STAR: The move for the extended hours is welcomed by the Consumer Choice Centre.

David Clement, North American Affairs manager for Consumer Choice Centres said “There is still a lot that needs to be done to modernize Ontario’s alcohol regulations. As we know from polling data, Ontario residents want increased access and for the province to move beyond its outdated model,” he said.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Government to extend hours to buy booze

BAY TODAY: David Clement, Toronto-based North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center said: “Expanded retail hours for alcohol sales definitely benefits consumers. Expanding retail hours is a good first step, but there is still a lot that needs to be done to modernize Ontario’s alcohol regulations. As we know from polling data, Ontario residents want increased access and for the province to move beyond its outdated model.

“Now that hours are expanded, it is time to allow for private retail sale in Ontario convenience stores, and to end the LCBO’s monopoly on the sale of spirits,” said Clement.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Who Pays? Regulating Cannabis in Canada Estimated to Cost $546 Million

Compliance, enforcement, inspections, public education, and program management–there are a lot of factors contributing to the costs of legalization of cannabis in Canada.

Designed to offset the estimated $546 million cost associated with regulating and enforcing the Cannabis Act, Health Canada has designed a Cost Recovery Program that aims to “ensure that those who benefit from the new legal market will pay the costs of regulating cannabis, which will reduce the cost to Canadians.”  But will it have the intended effect?

A Barrier to Would-Be Producers

The cost recovery program imposes a number of fees on licensed producers for application screening ($3,277), security clearance ($1,654), import/export permits ($610), and an annual regulatory fee of 2.3% or revenues, or $23,000 for producers with less than $1,000,000 in revenues.

Added to the capital costs required to produce cannabis at a commercial level, the fees represent a ballooning burden for LPs which might not serve the interests of consumers.

The cost recovery program could stifle competition by acting as a barrier to entry for new players looking to enter the cannabis space. If this is the case, market consolidation is likely and could ultimately limit consumer choice.

Competition, particularly early on in legalization, is important to encourage a market that is geared towards meeting the needs of consumers. More competition means more product selection and availability, and better service and quality.

Passing the Buck

When the fee structure for the Cost Recovery Program was announced by Health Canada in early October, the agency justified the fees, and their regulatory system, because it is all designed to shift profits away from the criminals and organized crime networks that sell cannabis illegally.

Fees, although technically charged to licensed producers, will ultimately be passed on to consumers who are already finding themselves subject to a 10% excise tax, provincial taxes, and delivery fees (especially in areas where online retail dominates in the absence of physical retail stores).

High prices have already generated some irritation for would-be consumers. In New Brunswick, one of the first customers into a Cannabis NB store actually left without making a purchase, citing that prices were out of his price range.

These inflated costs could ultimately prove counterproductive to the government’s mandate to stamp out the black market. And yet, Health Canada’s cost recovery program will not benefit provincial or municipal governments who will have to shoulder costs of regulation themselves. More concerning still, the scheme, priced at over half a billion dollar, doesn’t include any law enforcement costs.

While it is understandable that the government would want to recover the costs associated with regulating the industry, the Federal Government’s approach has created a bloated system that further burdens consumers through inflated prices, limited competition, and ultimately, encourages the black market to persist.

Originally published at https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/cost-recovery-canada

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Opinion: Marijuana promises economic benefit, poses financial questions

Michiganians voted Tuesday to introduce a new industry to the state that is expected to bring in $765 million in revenue over the next year and thousands of new jobs.

What we’re talking about is legal cannabis.

Look no further than the state of Colorado to see the incredible effects of legal cannabis on the economy, whether it’s the new influx of tax revenue, massive job growth, or discovering the plant’s health advantages.

By August, Colorado already hit $1 billion in legal cannabis sales for the year, bringing in over $200 million in taxes. Last year’s sales hit $1.5 billion. With a higher population and a GDP close to $100 million greater than Colorado, Michigan will have a lot to look forward to once it goes green.

However, federal law has continued to provide financial obstacles to states that have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana.

If you’ve ever purchased cannabis legally with a medical card or in a state with recreational sales, you likely bought the product with cash. The lack of payment options is due to banks operating under federal law, which still prohibits the consumption and selling of marijuana after being (included with bath salts and heroin) listed under Schedule 1 of The Controlled Substances Act.

A history of injustice

Marijuana was added to this list in 1971 when the act was initially introduced during the Nixon administration, which notoriously began the national War on Drugs. Since then, the federal government has spent over $1 trillion in futile, anti-drug efforts. This is apparent when observing the fact that there were “8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent … for simply having marijuana.”

Here’s what characterizes a Schedule 1 drug:

To begin, the drug or other substance must have a high potential for abuse. Second, the drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical treatment use in the United States. Last, the drug has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

As we now know, marijuana has shown to be an effective agent against a multitude of illnesses and disorders, ranging from treating chronic pain to providing relief for cancer patients. .

The strongest argument prohibitionists explore is the fact that marijuana, like many drugs available today (such as caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco), could be heavily abused. This view isn’t wrong. Someone could become dependent on marijuana to the point they can no longer be as productive as they otherwise would be.

Despite that, there are zero recorded marijuana-induced deaths in the United States.

The way forward

In Michigan, the ballot initiative on cannabis brought to voters this week was brought forward by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. A seller must obtain the required licenses, you must be 21 years of age to purchase, sell, or consume, and it’s still illegal to drive under the influence. This is very similar to buying your favorite six-pack.

But, there’s always a catch.

Even though Michigan voters decided to legalize recreational marijuana, it won’t be exactly like alcohol. It’s still illegal at the federal level, meaning you will likely be limited to purchasing cannabis with only cash.

At this point, only a small number of banks and credit unions will accept cannabis-related capital. In June of this year, Forbes noted, “411 banks and credit unions in the U.S. were ‘actively’ operating accounts for marijuana businesses, according to a report from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).”

While this number continues to rise, it’s not on pace to keep up with an exponentially growing number of new dispensaries and growers from all over the country. Putting that in jeopardy has been former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who back in January gave the green light to federal prosecutors to enforce federal law on banks that work directly with cannabis-related ventures. Risk-averse banks are unlikely to forfeit eligibility of Federal Deposit Insurance for marijuana businesses.

Despite the risk, there have a been a few notable proposals in California that have looked to curb this issue. Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher recently came out claiming he’s working directly with President Donald Trump to push marijuana reform, specifically legalizing medical marijuana at the federal level. That in turn, would likely lead to the rescheduling of marijuana. With minimal details about the possible legislation available, the following solution provided would be contingent on cannabis staying on as a Schedule 1 drug. That means this predicament could no longer be an issue by next year.

The most viable and practical solution introduced to California’s state legislature is SB-930. As explained in our article in MG Magazine, the bill “would allow the formation of private cannabis limited-charter banks and credit unions. These banks would be allowed to deal only with cannabis firms, allowing them to legally pay vendors, take out loans, and pay their tax bills at the end of the year.” By receiving banking licenses from the state level, cannabis firms would be able to bank their profits, and tax payments, legally.

Lessons from Canada

At our northern border, Canada took the step of becoming the largest industrialized country to legalize cannabis on Oct. 17. Unlike the many pockets of legalization and prohibition here in the U.S., Canada’s new policy establishes an entirely new, legal market. As long as citizens follow the rules governed by the provinces, cannabis firms can take out loans and lines of credit, open bank accounts, and pay their employees with direct deposit. And citizens can purchase using a number of payment methods, not just cash.

The difference between how the cannabis markets operate, however, is still not uniform across the country. Each province has created rules and restrictions on who may sell the product. In Ontario and Quebec, the state liquor stores have a monopoly on cannabis sales. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, private retailers are allowed to operate. Some provinces, like Quebec, ban home growing, even though federal allows citizens to grow up to six plants.

Regardless of the jurisdictional and regulatory differences, the fact remains that Canadians are freely able to buy cannabis in a commercial setting, taxes are collected, and banks and auxiliary services can benefit. Achieving the same in Michigan will require changes in federal law, but we can at least move forward one aspect of this battle come Election Day.

What’s clear is that a private solution is favored over a public one if our goal is maximum innovation and efficiency. A public bank operated by government bureaucrats would lead to a burden on Michigan taxpayers and hinder economic growth. But there are other ways to innovate and be creative to find solutions.

In Michigan, we like to embrace our craft beer industry with a sense of pride. We understand and love the art and innovation that come with brewing a solid beer. If we want to join the 21st century, it’s time we do the same with marijuana, just like voters said on Tuesday.

Garett Roush is the North American leadership manager with Students For Liberty and a fellow with the Consumer Choice Center.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at https://eu.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2018/11/07/marijuana-promises-economic-benefit-poses-financial-questions/1904480002/

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Opinion: advertising rules for cannabis in Canada are too strict

Cannabis legalization passing on October 17th means that the Federal Cannabis Act is in full force and that the industry will have to follow extremely strict restrictions when it comes to marketing, branding, and advertising practices.

The goal of these restrictions is to avoid cannabis being exposed to young people. Although that goal is noble on its face, the restrictions that will be in place far exceed what could be considered sensible regulation. This is especially true when you consider how other age prohibited goods, like alcohol, are advertised and promoted nationwide.

Here are some of the most problematic restrictions on the advertising and promotions listed in the Cannabis Act:

Prices

Among the most glaring issues listed in the Cannabis Act is the prohibition against advertising with information about a product’s price, as well as any promotion based on inducement. The price provision essentially means it will be illegal for producers and retailers to advertise the prices for the products they sell.

Prohibiting price advertising will leave consumers unaware of potential sales until after they have actually entered a cannabis retail space, whether that be in person, or online. This significantly limits consumer knowledge and discourages competition which is essential to ensure that consumer demand is appropriately met.

For inducements, it will be illegal for cannabis producers and retailers to have any marketing efforts that offer additional products, accessories, or services with purchase. That means product giveaways, the inclusion of free promotional items, and various other forms of product marketing will be against the law.

This is stricter than how alcohol is treated. Across Canada, consumers can regularly see ads that reveal prices for various products. These advertisements happen whether alcohol is sold by government or private retailers. In addition to that, producers of alcohol are permitted to advertise product giveaways or promotional items that might be included with their products at the point of purchase. For example, many popular beer companies include promotional items like t-shirts, miniature Stanley Cups, and various other “swag” items in their cases of beer. It’s clear that there’s a double standard at play.

Event Sponsorships

The disparity between how the alcohol industry is treated and how the legal cannabis industry will be treated is also evident with the prohibition on event sponsorship. Cannabis companies will not be able to use their branding to promote events or offer event sponsorship for venues or festivals.

The hypocrisy here is that alcohol companies are allowed to provide such sponsorships, while cannabis companies won’t be. All of this begs the question; why can producers of alcohol sponsor events and venues, like Toronto’s Budweiser Stage, while the legal cannabis industry can’t?

Testimonials and Endorsements

The other major issue with the Act is the prohibition on advertising with testimonials or endorsements. In the absence of packaging that promotes therapeutic uses and efficacy–also prohibited–testimonials and endorsements are important tools for consumers because those testimonials put assurance behind a brand and its impact on the user. This is even more important given that many consumers of cannabis will be new to the product, and ultimately uninformed, or ill-informed. Cannabis producers and retailers should be able to convey a product’s desired impact, via testimonial or endorsement, so that consumer knowledge can be enhanced, which ensures consumers make appropriate purchases based on their preferences.

One example of why this is misguided is how we treat advertising for non-prescription medicine. Numerous popular pain medication, allergy, and cold medicine brands regularly advertise their products to the general public and make use of testimonials explaining the drug’s impact and designed use. Again, we have a clear double standard that puts unnecessary and inconsistent restrictions on the legal cannabis industry.

Lifestyle Marketing

The last, and most obnoxious, marketing and branding restriction is the complete prohibition on depicting persons or animals, whether fictional or not. This means that all cannabis marketing or promotion can not have any instances where they depict a person. The goal of this is to prevent lifestyle marketing.

Preventing lifestyle marketing is obviously inconsistent when we look at alcohol marketing in Canada. That said, the ridiculousness of this can be seen in the example of New Brunswick. New Brunswick’s online retail outlet, run by the province, initially depicted a woman doing yoga, and people socializing. Health Canada has now warned the province that they are violating the marketing rules set out by the federal government. Heaven forbid adult cannabis consumers see a picture of an adult doing yoga.

Limiting cannabis exposure to minors is important, however; these restrictions are heavy handed and ultimately hypocritical once the advertising practices of other industries are taken into account. Instead of these inconsistent restrictions, the Federal Government would be better to spend their efforts cracking down on any advertising considered to be false, misleading, or deceptive. For legal products, like cannabis, that is the proper role of government when it comes to consumer protection.

The Federal Government, although legalizing cannabis, appears to be desperately holding on to the remnants of prohibition through these overly restrictive advertising rules. That’s bad for consumers and bad for Canada.

David Clement is the north american affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center. He has written for outlets such as the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Hamilton Spectator. He is regularly featured as a commentator on CTV, Global News, and the CBC.
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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Quebec should embrace cannabis to promote the economy

The CAQ’s anti-pot stance is sure to hurt consumers and citizens in Quebec.

The new Quebec premier Francois Legault of the Coalition Avenir Quebec says he wants to put more money in the pockets of Quebecers.

And now that the CAQ has the mandate of a majority government, his words will soon turn into actions.

Legault and the CAQ have already declared they want more of a role for the private sector in health care and want to eliminate bureaucracy. Added to that, they want to cut taxes across the board.

In addition, the CAQ has put the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) on notice, saying that the state agency “profits from its monopoly status to take advantage of consumers,” and the time has come to privatize it.

Each of these proposals represent historical opportunities for consumers and entrepreneurs.

But when it comes to cannabis, which was legalized on Wednesday nationwide, the CAQ is wrong. Their anti-pot stance is sure to hurt consumers and citizens in Quebec.

The Most Restrictive Laws

As the Globe and Mail detailed last week, Quebec will have the most restrictive laws in the country when cannabis is legalized.

In the cannabis regulations passed by the previous Quebec Liberal Party, consumers in Quebec will be banned from growing the plant at home, and will only have 25 stores to choose from across the province, including just four in Montreal. Even more, prices will be fixed by the new SQDC and customers will only be allowed to have 150 grams of dried cannabis at home. Ontario, on the other hand, will open up 40 stores by July 2019, allowing consumers to buy online in the meantime. In Saskatchewan, up to 60 permits will be handed out to private retailers. Manibota is the only other province to ban home growing.

The CAQ voted against the Liberals’ provincial plan in June and have indicatedthey want even more regulations, including a ban on public consumption and an age limit of 21 years old.

For Legault and the CAQ, the “commodification” of cannabis is a bad idea that Quebec has been forced to accept.

That said, will the CAQ’s sour opinion on cannabis ensure Quebec is left behind in the green economic boom?

An economy both green and strong

In 2019, the cannabis market is expected to reach $1 billion, representing a fourth of the national total.

That represents not only millions in additional revenue for the province via taxes, but also an invitation to innovation for hundreds of entrepreneurs and innovators who will respond to the new demand of the population. That’ll mean more investment and more jobs across the economy. Cannabis stores will need goods and services they’ll receive from the market, and all businesses around them will benefit. It’s a win-win scenario.

As such, it’s a reality that will only come to fruition if we have a government that offers us simple, effective laws that prove conducive to the new market of cannabis.

The problem with a restrictive cannabis law regime is simple: the more restrictive it is, the more likely consumers are to stay in the black market to acquire the product. According to Deloitte, only 47 percent of Quebecers have the intention of even using the legal cannabis market. The majority will still in the black market, far from government’s regulations and taxing authority.

Is that the CAQ’s grand plan? We hope not.

The legalization of cannabis in Canada is a historic occasion to demonstrate our capacity to be an innovative, smart, and entrepreneurial country with sound and effective public policies.

That’s the economic message the CAQ wanted to send voters at the last election. If they want to continue flying that flag, they’re going to have to open up to the wonders of cannabis.

Yaël Ossowski is an economic journalist and deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Advocacy group criticises Canadian cannabis plain-packaging regime

WORLD TRADEMARK REVIEW: Advocacy group criticises Canadian cannabis plain-packaging regime – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC), a global advocacy group focused on consumer choice and market access, has issued a strongly-worded press release on plain packaging in Canada. In it, the group criticises the Canadian government for its strict branding and packaging restrictions on the legal cannabis market. A key contention is that the government has applied its tobacco plain-packaging regime and applied it to cannabis products. At a news conference, David Clement, North American affairs manager for the CCC, claimed the Canadian government “seems committed to treating adult consumers like children”, adding: “What we’ve seen is that Health Canada and our federal government are regulating products with complete disregard for consumers, and complete disregard for a continuum of risk. Our worry now is what started with tobacco has moved to cannabis, and now will move to other products, such as soft drinks, alcohol and various other food items.” The suggestion of a plain packaging ‘domino effect’ has been warned about since Australia introduced the world’s first such regime. It appears these concerns continue. (TJL)

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Pressure increases on Ontario to ban vaping displays to protect teens from addiction

TORONTO STAR: On the cannabis portion of the bill, a lobby group called the Consumer Choice Centre warned allowing municipalities to ban private marijuana stores within their boundaries will create “prohibition zones” where the criminal black market will continue to thrive.

“Waiting up to three business days for a package to arrive in the mail, which you have to be physically present to receive, is not accessible enough,” spokesman David Clement said in regards to the official government online sales channel, the Ontario Cannabis Store.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

District of Elkford Approves Cannabis Bylaws

SUMMIT 107 FM: After the District gave second and third readings to the smoking regulation bylaw, the Consumer Choice Centre told Summit 107 that they feel these rules “unfairly target the poor” since lower-income residents tend to rent their accommodations. Landlords have the ability to ban cannabis use on rental properties, so the group argues that, for those individuals, it will essentially be as if legalization is not happening at all.

McKerracher declined the opportunity to comment on the Consumer Choice Centre’s statements.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Federal Government Plain Packaging Regulations Completely Disregard Consumers and Limit Product Choice

The Federal Government of Canada is enacting strict branding and packaging restrictions on the legal cannabis market. More specifically, Health Canada has taken the framework of plain packaging tobacco products including cigarettes and cigars, and applied many aspects of that legislation to how legal cannabis products must appear. This mandate from Health Canada limits consumer choice, according to the Consumer Choice Center, and more importantly, prevents consumers from selecting products based on their personal choice.

Speaking at news conference yesterday held in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill, David Clement, North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said the Federal Government seems committed to treating adult consumers like children. The branding restrictions placed on tobacco products, and now cannabis products, shows a disturbing trend of paternalism creeping further into the lives of adult consumers. It’s a dangerous precedent and raises the question of what products will be targeted next.

“What we’ve seen is that Health Canada and our federal government are regulating products with complete disregard for consumers, and complete disregard for a continuum of risk. Our worry now is what started with tobacco has moved to cannabis, and now will move to other products, such as soft drinks, alcohol and various other food items,” said David ClementToronto-based North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC).

CCC has launched the Smokers Vote initiative where consumers of cannabis, tobacco products and cigars can raise their concerns about plain packaging regulations directly with their elected representatives and engage in direct democracy.

About the Consumer Choice Center

The Consumer Choice Center is a global advocacy group focused on consumer choice and market access. The CCC monitors regulatory trends around the world, works with consumers in over 100 countries, and engages with policy makers to highlight how certain regulations impact consumer choice.

For more information: http://www.smokersvote.org

Originally published at http://www.tacticsmagazine.com/landingpages/cnw-global-retail-news/?rkey=20181012C2227&filter=5491

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.