canada

Don’t ban flavoured vapes

Banning flavours for adult smokers trying to quit tobacco is a huge mistake, one that could have deadly consequences

Earlier this month Ottawa submitted new regulations for vaping products to the Canada Gazette. It wants to ban all vape flavours with the exception of tobacco, mint and menthol.

The rationale behind the ban is that limiting flavours will curb youth access to vaping products. Vapes, of course, should never be in the hands of minors. Their main value is to offer adult smokers substantially reduced risk for consuming nicotine — a 95 per cent reduction according to Public Health England. That reality is why vaping works as a means to quit smoking, something which has been reaffirmed by many peer-reviewed articles. A 2017 study from the University of California using U.S. Census data found that vaping had contributed to a “significant” increase in smoking cessation and as a result it recommended positive public health communications on vaping.

Other national public health agencies have seen the value of vaping as a smoking cessation tool and shifted their approach. Ireland, for example, has started actively promoting vape products to adult smokers trying to quit, while New Zealand has launched an interactive online tool explaining the value of switching to vaping from smoking.

Our federal government, however, is ignoring what is working abroad and is rejecting its usual governing principle of harm reduction. Curbing youth access to vape products is very important but banning flavours for adult smokers trying to quit tobacco is a huge mistake, one that could have deadly consequences. Approximately 1.5 million Canadians use vape products, most of them smokers trying to quit. Research on consumer purchasing patterns shows that 650,000 of those vape users currently rely on flavours that would be prohibited if the ban goes through.

If Ottawa does gets its ban, many of those targeted by it are likely to return to smoking, and that is something no one should be celebrating. This isn’t just a hypothesis on what may happen; it’s what has happened in jurisdictions that have sought to limit access to flavours.

South of the border, a nationally representative longitudinal study of over 17,000 Americans showed that adults who used flavoured vaping products were 2.3 times more likely to quit smoking cigarettes when compared to vapers who consumed tobacco-flavoured vaping products. Its authors, Abigail S. Friedman and SiQing Xu, both health policy researchers at Yale University, concluded that: “Although proponents of flavour bans have claimed that tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes are adequate to help individuals who smoke, these results call for evidence to support that claim before it is acted on.”

San Francisco provides yet another example where banning flavoured vaping products directly correlated with a spike in smoking rates. In a single-authored study, Abigail S. Friedman concluded that the ban on flavoured products doubled the odds that those under the legal age of purchase had smoked recently. The ban, passed to curb youth access to vaping, ultimately ended up shifting minors to cigarettes, which is a public health failure by any measure.

In fact, the economic evaluation of the ban, in the federal government’s own submission, openly admits that a ban on flavours will cause a return to smoking: “They (vapers) would choose to purchase more cigarettes, hence offsetting the loss” retailers will incur as a result of eliminating flavoured vape products.

The link between vaping flavours and quitting smoking is intuitive. Smokers trying to quit are more likely to enjoy a flavoured vape product than something that tastes exactly like the product they are desperately trying to quit using. Regulators here in Canada must know that this is exactly what will happen and yet are pushing onward regardless.

The federal Liberals have steadfastly, even stubbornly, championed harm reduction when it comes to illicit drugs — which makes their stance on vaping all the more incomprehensible. Their approach to illicit substances is the right approach given that it ultimately saves lives, and they should let those same harm reduction principles guide vaping policy. In fact, harm reduction should guide all drug policy, whether those drugs are legal or not.

Originally published here.

Taxing sugary drinks unlikely to cut Newfoundland and Labrador obesity rates

Newfoundland is creeping toward a fiscal cliff.

The province’s debt load is more than $12 billion, which is approximately $23,000 per resident. COVID-19 has obviously worsened that troubling trend, with this year’s budget deficit expected to reach $826 million.

Just this week legislators proposed a handful of tax hikes to help cover the gap, ranging from increasing personal income tax rates for the wealthier brackets, increasing taxes on cigarettes, and the outright silly concept of a “Pepsi tax.”

In one year’s time, the province will implement a tax on sugary drinks at a rate of 20 cents per litre, generating an estimated almost $9 million per year in revenue.

Finance Minister Siobhan Coady justified the tax, beyond the need for revenue, stating that the tax will “position Newfoundland and Labrador as a leader in Canada and will help avoid future demands on the health-care system.”

When described like that, a Pepsi tax sounds harmonious. Who doesn’t want to curb obesity and generate revenue?

Unfortunately for supporters of the tax, the evidence isn’t really there.

In one year’s time, the province will implement a tax on sugary drinks at a rate of 20 cents per litre, generating an estimated nearly $9 million per year in revenue.

Unfortunately for supporters of the tax, the evidence isn’t really there. In one year’s time, the province will implement a tax on sugary drinks at a rate of 20 cents per litre, generating an estimated nearly $9 million per year in revenue.

Regressive taxes

Consumption taxes like this are often highly regressive, meaning that low-income residents bear most of the burden, and are ultimately ineffective in achieving their public health goals.

Looking to Mexico provides a good case study on the efficacy of soft drink taxes. With one of the highest obesity rates in the world, Mexico enacted a soft drink tax, increasing prices by nearly 13 per cent, with the goal of reducing caloric intake. A time-series analysis of the impact of the tax showed that it reduced consumption of these drinks by only 3.8 per cent, which represents less than seven calories per day. Estimates from Canada also show the same. When PEI’s Green Party proposed a soft drink tax of 20 per cent per litre it was only estimated to reduce caloric intake from soft drinks by two per cent, which is approximately 2.5 calories per day.

While these taxes do in fact reduce consumption to some degree, the reductions are so small that they have virtually no impact on obesity rates. To make matters worse, taxes like this aren’t just ineffective in combating obesity, they are heavily regressive. Looking again at the data from Mexico, the tax they implemented was largely paid for by those with a low socioeconomic status.

In fact, a majority of the revenue, upwards of 63 per cent, was generated from families at, or below, the poverty line. If we take the province’s estimation of $9 million a year in revenue, it is reasonable to assume that $5.67 million of that revenue will be coming from the pockets of low-income Newfoundlanders.

In other jurisdictions south of the border, like Cook County Illinois, no soda tax has avoided the uncomfortable reality of being incredibly regressive, which is partly why they eventually abandoned the tax altogether.

Doubtful benefits

Newfoundlanders need to ask themselves, is it worth implementing a heavily regressive tax on low-income families to move the needle on obesity by a few calories a day? I’d argue that the negatives of the tax far outweigh the benefits, and that’s before business impacts enter the equation. This also happens to be the same conclusion found in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, in a report to the Ministry of Health, stated that “We have yet to see any clear evidence that imposing a sugar tax would meet a comprehensive cost-benefit test.”

While both budget shortfalls and obesity are serious problems, a “Pepsi tax” isn’t a serious solution.

Originally published here.

David Clement: On challenge to dairy supply management: You go, Joe!

Removal would be a huge step forward for American producers, Canadian producers, and consumers on both sides of the border

Last month news broke that the Biden administration will initiate a trade dispute mechanism against the Canadian dairy industry, which is the first formal challenge under the newly renegotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The Biden administration claims that Canada’s quota and tariff system under supply management is in violation of what was agreed on when the USMCA was signed in 2018. Though it is unclear whether the administration will emerge victorious when the dispute panel reports back later this year, the removal of Canada’s system of supply management would be a huge step forward for American producers, Canadian producers, and consumers on both sides of the border.

The impact of easing restrictions for American farmers would be substantial, which is why the Biden administration is undertaking its challenge of supply management. Given Canada’s population, opening the Canadian market for U.S. producers would be similar to adding another California in terms of market access.

The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that if the USMCA were to be enforced as agreed on, dairy exports to Canada would increase by $227 million a year, poultry exports by $183.5 million, and egg exports (for consumption, not industrial use) by $10.8 million. Cumulatively, the $422 million increase would account for an estimated 19 per cent of the total agricultural export gains the U.S. expected from the full implementation of the USMCA.

No doubt defenders of supply management will claim that U.S. export growth will come at the expense of Canadian farmers. But that just isn’t true. Something both protectionists and progressives forget: Trade isn’t a zero-sum game. The benefits of increased trade would be enjoyed by both Canada and the U.S. That same U.S. Trade Commission report estimates U.S. imports of Canadian dairy products would increase by $161.7 million if the terms of the USCMA were enforced. Reduced trade barriers would allow Canadian farmers to sell their products to this new group of American consumers, which is one reason why research published in the Canadian Journal of Economics in 2016 concluded that “supply management may no longer be beneficial to domestic producers of the supply‐managed commodities.”

That said, if there is to be a real winner from the proper enforcement of the USMCA it wouldn’t be producers on either side of the border. It would be Canadian consumers, who have long faced inflated prices because of supply management, to the disproportionate detriment of low-income Canadians. Supply management’s mandate to limit supply and significantly reduce competition artificially inflates prices for Canadian consumers, adding upwards of $500 to the average family’s grocery bill each year. For low-income Canadians that artificial price inflation accounts for 2.3 per cent of their income, which in turn pushes between 133,000 and 189,000 Canadians below the poverty line. Supply management is a disastrously regressive policy.

With very few exceptions, Canadian politicians have not had the courage to take on Canada’s dairy cartel, mostly because of its oversized influence as the most powerful lobby in Canada. If our politicians can’t do the right thing and stand up against this powerful lobby, maybe President Joe Biden can. You go, Joe! Canadian consumers sure would appreciate it.

Originally published here.

Ending liquor monopoly in Ontario would be win-win-win

Rethinking the LCBO could save taxpayers a tremendous amount of money

Ontario is teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff. Under its previous Liberal government, the province became the most indebted sub-sovereign unit in the world. Unfortunately, poor policy-making and the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened its situation. Ontario’s debt is now over $404 billion, which means each Ontarian’s share of that debt is a whopping $27,000.

As the pandemic ends, Ontario will need bold policy-making to dig itself out of the hole it’s in. One bold policy that would help is privatizing the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), or at a minimum capping its expansion and ending its monopoly status.

Scrapping the LCBO and shifting to a private, preferably uncapped, retail model would benefit consumers by offering them more choice and convenience. Ontario currently has the worst alcohol retail density in Canada, mostly because the combination of a government monopoly (LCBO), with a government-sanctioned private monopoly (The Beer Store) has limited the scalability of retail access. As a result, Ontario has only one alcohol retail outlet for every 4,480 residents. In comparison, British Columbia has one store for every 2,741 residents, Alberta one for every 1,897 residents, and Quebec one store for every 1,047 residents. Ending the LCBO’s monopoly would help bring Ontario onto a par with other provinces.

More importantly, rethinking the LCBO could save taxpayers a tremendous amount of money. The LCBO’s operating costs are bloated. Based on its 2019 annual financial statement, the average sales, general and administrative (SG&A) cost per store is $1,515,000 per year. With 666 corporate stores, that is a considerable expense to taxpayers. Private alternatives, like high-inventory private retailers in Alberta, cost significantly less to operate. Based on Alcanna’s 2019 annual financial report, the average SG&A for a private outlet comparable to an LCBO, is just $676,000 per year. If we could snap our fingers right now and fully transition the LCBO out of the government’s operating model, taxpayers would save an astounding $559 million per year. If the Ford government is looking for low-hanging fiscal fruit, this is it.

Labour unions and other supporters of nationalized alcohol distribution would obviously have an issue with the complete elimination of the LCBO. They will argue that privatization would threaten the well-paying jobs of the thousands of Ontarians who work for the LCBO. This could be true, as it’s unlikely that private retailers would require their workers to be members of OPSEU, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which has negotiated wages well above the market rates for comparable jobs. That said, there is a compromise solution that both expands consumer choice, maintains those LCBO jobs, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars. It is to stop the LCBO from expanding its operations and let the private sector fill the void.

Each year, on average, the LCBO, makes a net addition of seven new stores in Ontario. If the province were to simply stop the LCBO’s expansion, and have the private sector fill the gap, taxpayers would cumulatively save $88 million after five years. At the 10-year mark that figure would be $323 million. And these savings are only the ongoing operational savings and don’t include the tens of millions of dollars the LCBO spends to acquire storefronts for expansion.

This compromise solution would allow the LCBO’s existing outlets to remain operational, while also allowing for more retail access and a hybrid model moving forward. On top of the cost savings, there might well be revenue gains. Hybrid and private retail models for alcohol sale (as in B.C. and Alberta) actually generate more alcohol tax revenue per capita, a further benefit for the public purse. Politically, this compromise solution is a no-brainer. Increasing access, fuelling private business opportunities, generating more revenue, and all the while maintaining current LCBO employment would be a win-win-win.

The Ford government has already laid the groundwork for such an approach. Buried in the licences and permits schedule in the 2019 budget, the province effectively cleared the way for a truly free and open alcohol market in Ontario. The bill states that “A person may apply to the Registrar for a licence to operate a retail alcohol store, operate as a wholesaler, or deliver alcohol.”

Ontario has opened the door for a consumer-friendly retail model for alcohol that would finally end the LCBO’s monopoly. Full privatization would be best but if that is too great a stretch politically, a free-entry compromise would still benefit all Ontarians. The government has created the possibility of such a change. For the sake of consumers and taxpayers, it should now follow through.

Originally published here.

Canadian Cancer Society supports vape tax, as nearly one-third of Sask. teens vape daily

Canadian Cancer Society regional manager Angeline Webb says they support the 20 per cent provincial tax on vapour products.

She says price measures have been proven to reduce vaping among youth and adults.

“Currently, vaping products are quite affordable so we want to price kids out of the market.”

The provincial government says the additional cost will help “prevent vapour products from being attractive to youth and non-smokers.”

Health Canada research shows that 30 per cent of teens in Saskatchewan vape on a daily basis, according to Webb.

She says research from Health Canada and the U.S. Centre for Disease Control shows that teens who vape are three times more likely to start smoking.

In Saskatchewan, consumers currently pay six per cent GST and six per cent PST on vape products.

The province’s Bill 32 would add 14 percentage points to the price of vapour liquids, products and devices on Sept. 1, 2021.

The federal government is conducting research to support a ban on flavoured vape products sales in Canada – a move Webb says is supported by the Canadian Cancer Agency.

Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have banned all flavoured e-liquids and vape products. Quebec and New Brunswick are also considering restrictions to flavoured vaping products.

“Flavoured vaping products are enticing to youth who try and continue to use vaping products because of the flavours,” said Webb. “People who use vape products are 30 per cent more likely to develop a serious respiratory illness.”

However, Kevin Tetz, co-owner and operator of Inspired Vapor Company, says vaping reduces the taxpayer healthcare burden by reducing smoking-related disease and death.

David Clement, North American affairs manager for Consumer Choice Center, a North American consumer advocacy group, agrees with Tetz.

Clement says Bill 32 will place higher costs on both nicotine and cannabis vape products for consumers.

“This is ultimately going to throw consumers under the bus, specifically adult consumers and smokers who use vape products as a means to switch away from smoking cigarettes,” said Clement.

Vape stores can’t sell to people under 18 years and stores are required to block their windows to prevent their products from being in public view.

Blaine Tetz, co-owner of Inspired Vapor Company says he smoked for over 30 years and tried to quit smoking using the nicotine patch, prescription drugs, hypnosis and will power. He was able to quit smoking in 2017 after he started vaping.

“I gradually worked my way out of smoking cigarettes until I didn’t want them anymore and the only reason I was able to do that was because I had a replacement for the nicotine,” said Tetz.

Tetz now owns and operates three vape shops in partnership with his son in Melfort, Prince Albert and Humboldt. He says he has over a thousand customers in his customer data base who have told their store they have been able to quit smoking with the help of vapes.

He says their stores sell many kinds of “vape juice,” some non-nicotine flavoured liquids to nicotine liquids of various concentrations.

Blaine Tetz says a flavour ban would “decimate the industry.”

There are no provincial laws against vaping inside, including bars, restaurants, hotels, etc. unless specified by the individual establishment.

Some municipal governments such as the City of Saskatoon have passed by laws restricting where people can vape.

Originally published here.

Le Canada devrait bloquer une dispense de brevet pour les vaccins COVID

L’octroi d’une dérogation unique crée un dangereux précédent d’annulation des droits de propriété intellectuelle, mettant en péril l’innovation future et la vie de milliards de victimes de virus.

Affaires mondiales Canada n’a toujours pas pris de décision sur l’opportunité de soutenir une dérogation aux droits de propriété intellectuelle pour les vaccins COVID-19. Le Canada, ainsi que les États-Unis, l’UE, le Royaume-Uni, la Suisse, le Japon, la Norvège, l’Australie et le Brésil, ont tous retardé leur décision sur la «dérogation aux ADPIC» proposée par l’Inde et l’Afrique du Sud l’année dernière. L’ADPIC est le volet «Aspects des droits de propriété intellectuelle liés au commerce» de l’OMC.

L’Inde et l’Afrique du Sud sont soutenues par une coalition comprenant Médecins sans frontières, Human Rights Watch et le secrétaire général de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Leur argument en faveur de la dérogation est simple: cela supprimerait les barrières juridiques qui empêchent les pays en développement de produire leurs propres vaccins avec la technologie développée par les entreprises de vaccins.

Les partisans de la dérogation soutiennent que parce que le COVID représente une telle menace mondiale et que les vaccins ont maintenant été développés, les pays à revenu faible et intermédiaire devraient être autorisés à les fabriquer eux-mêmes – ceux qui ont la technologie et le capital humain pour le faire, c’est-à-dire.

Bien que l’objectif d’accroître la disponibilité des vaccins dans le monde en développement soit à la fois noble et réalisable, une dérogation à la propriété intellectuelle est une mauvaise façon d’y parvenir. L’annulation des droits de propriété intellectuelle détruit le fondement de ce qui rend l’innovation médicale possible. Les droits de propriété intellectuelle sont des protections qui contribuent à favoriser l’innovation et offrent une sécurité juridique aux innovateurs afin qu’ils puissent profiter de leurs efforts et les financer. Un affaiblissement des règles de propriété intellectuelle nuirait activement à tous ceux qui dépendent de médicaments et de vaccins innovants, y compris les plus vulnérables du monde.

Si le coût de la recherche et de la production d’un vaccin COVID est de 1 milliard de dollars, sans garantie de succès, il y a relativement peu de sociétés biotechnologiques ou pharmaceutiques qui peuvent supporter ce coût. Dans le cas du COVID, compte tenu des connaissances spécialisées nécessaires pour développer ces vaccins et de l’infrastructure de stockage frigorifique nécessaire pour en distribuer certains, il semble peu plausible qu’ils aient pu être développés sans les contrats d’approvisionnement traditionnels que nous avons vus en Amérique du Nord.

BioNTech, la société allemande dirigée par l’équipe mari-femme d’Uğur Şahin et Özlem Türeci qui s’est associée à Pfizer pour les essais et la distribution de leur vaccin ARNm, a été fondée à l’origine pour essayer de développer des moyens d’utiliser les techniques d’ARNm pour guérir le cancer. Avant la pandémie, il s’est endetté massivement et s’est brouillé pour financer ses recherches. Une fois que la pandémie a commencé, elle a fait pivoter ses opérations et a produit l’un des premiers vaccins à ARNm COVID, que des centaines de millions de personnes ont reçu.

Avec des milliards de dollars de ventes aux gouvernements et des centaines de millions d’investissements privés directs, nous pouvons nous attendre à ce que BioNTech, désormais florissante, soit à la pointe de la recherche sur le cancer à ARNm, ce qui pourrait éventuellement guérir la maladie. Il en va de même pour les nombreuses maladies «orphelines» et rares qui, autrement, ne reçoivent pas de financement majeur.

Cela aurait-il été possible sans les protections de la propriété intellectuelle? Non. Les protections de la propriété intellectuelle garantissent que les innovateurs peuvent profiter de leurs efforts, recouvrer leurs coûts et réinvestir dans la recherche et le développement de nouveaux médicaments et vaccins.

Une meilleure façon d’encourager une distribution équitable des vaccins existants est de ne pas éliminer les incitations financières pour en créer de nouveaux, mais de faire ce que la plupart des fabricants de vaccins COVID-19 font déjà en fait: réduire leurs prix pour les pays en développement ou vendre le vaccin à Coût. Les développeurs du vaccin Oxford-AstraZeneca se sont engagés à vendre au prix coûtant jusqu’à la fin de la pandémie.

Pour sa part, Moderna a volontairement décidé de ne pas appliquer les droits de propriété intellectuelle sur son vaccin ARNm tant que la pandémie n’est pas déclarée terminée. Après cela, Moderna reprendra l’application de ses droits de propriété intellectuelle sur sa technologie, ce qui lui permet de continuer à recouvrer les coûts et à financer la future R&D. La non-exécution est son droit, bien sûr: c’est le titulaire des droits. Les gouvernements et autres agences, y compris privées, peuvent également acheter des vaccins en vrac et les distribuer gratuitement aux pays à faible revenu, comme le fait le plan multilatéral COVAX.

Vous pourriez penser que ces concessions des producteurs de vaccins et les contributions des gouvernements suffiraient à réprimer les appels à la dissolution de la propriété intellectuelle, mais les partisans d’une dérogation à la propriété intellectuelle ont doublé. Médecins sans frontières, par exemple, souhaite que toutes les recherches et technologies liées aux vaccins COVID soient mises à la disposition des pays qui en ont besoin, ce qui équivaut à l’annulation complète des protections de propriété intellectuelle.

Plutôt que de célébrer l’innovation capitale qui, en un temps record, a conduit à près d’une douzaine de vaccins approuvés au niveau mondial pour lutter contre une pandémie mortelle, ces groupes diffusent un message populiste qui oppose les pays pauvres aux riches. S’il est encore politiquement à la mode de s’en tenir à «Big Pharma», même après avoir fourni les vaccins qui mettront fin à la pandémie, les conséquences de raids IP organisés de ce type seraient horribles.

Pour mettre fin à la pandémie actuelle et lutter efficacement contre les futures, nous avons besoin de l’innovation des producteurs de vaccins qui ont rendu possible la campagne mondiale actuelle de vaccination. L’octroi d’une dérogation supposée unique crée un dangereux précédent d’annulation des droits de propriété intellectuelle qui mettrait en péril l’innovation future et donc la vie de milliards de victimes de virus, actuelles et potentielles.

Originally published here.

Make it closing time for Ontario’s beer monopoly

The Beer Store is an institution built on a toxic mix of prohibition and cronyism

News broke this month that The Beer Store (TBS), Ontario’s monopoly beer-seller, is losing money and lots of it. According to its annual financial statement, TBS operated at a $50.7 million loss in 2020. While some of that can be chalked up to the pandemic decimating the demand for kegs, TBS has been in rough shape for some time. In fact, it hasn’t turned a profit since 2017, well before the pandemic upended the economy.

The Beer Store’s poor performance should lead Ontario consumers to ask the age-old question: why do we tolerate any entity having a virtual monopoly on the retail sale of beer? Even worse, why is its near-monopoly status protected by law?

For those who don’t know, which is approximately 68 per cent of Ontarians, TBS is a privately owned, government-protected monopoly first established on the heels of Prohibition. Its original purpose in 1927 was to create strict access points for beer retail, appeasing prohibitionists by supposedly protecting society from the evils of alcohol consumption.

Though the prohibition mentality is long gone its disappearance still hasn’t resulted in the liberalization of where Ontarians can buy beer. Right now, Ontarians only have limited options: The Beer Store, the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), on-site sales at breweries, and a select number of grocery stores, 450 to be exact. Because of these limited choices, Ontario has the lowest alcohol retail density in all of Canada. Now would be a perfect time to liberalize the retail market for beer, specifically by granting convenience stores and any grocery store that wants to entry to the retail space.

The Beer Store naturally will fight tooth and nail to preserve its protected status but its arguments are not convincing.

Its first defence is legal — that it is protected under the Master Framework Agreement (MFA), signed under the Wynne government, which isn’t set to expire until 2025. But it is not unknown in Canadian history for legislatures to re-write agreements. Re-writing contracts does have its downsides but in this case revoking the agreement would serve competition and consumer choice, two very good causes.

The Beer Store also defends its protection under the banner of preserving jobs, keeping prices low, collecting revenues for the province, and protecting Ontarians from poor health outcomes. All these claims are bogus.

On job losses, TBS president Ted Moroz claimed in 2019 that alcohol liberalization would put the jobs of its 7,000 employees at risk. And well it might: competition usually doesn’t help protected incumbents. But researchfrom the Retail Council of Canada shows that expanding retail sales would actually create 9,500 new jobs in Ontario and boost GDP by $3.5 billion a year. Given Ontario’s financial position, any such boost is badly needed.

Originally published here.

Happy Festivus, for the rest of us

In the tradition of Festivus, Canada’s consumers have grievances to air, mainly about disappointing government officials

Festivus involves an unadorned aluminum pole (to emphasize its origins in anti-commercialism), a family dinner, feats of strength and the ever-important “Airing of Grievances.”

With a different kind of holiday this year, we are all making alternative plans for our annual celebrations. Zoom calls and socially distant visits will be the norm. That said, a pandemic is no match for the seasonal celebration of my choice, Festivus. Festivus was invented in the 1960s by the father of Dan O’Keefe, a writer for the hit 1990s comedy show Seinfeld, and became an O’Keefe family tradition. In a Seinfeld episode of December 1997, the show’s chief curmudgeon, Frank Costanza, father of George, introduced the holiday to the world. (Frank Costanza was played by Jerry Stiller, who died in May, age 92.)

Celebrated every December 23rd by those who do observe, this strange holiday usually involves an unadorned aluminum pole (to emphasize its origins in anti-commercialism), a family dinner, feats of strength and the ever-important “Airing of Grievances,” in which, after Festivus dinner, each member of the family explains how all the others have disappointed them over the past year.

A countrywide Festivus dinner is not in the cards this year for our Canadian family. But Canada’s consumers do have grievances to air, mainly about disappointing government officials. In the immortal words of Frank Costanza, “We got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it.”

Federally, quite a few members of Parliament were particularly disappointing this year. Top of the list is federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, for his silly and misguided plastic ban, and his strange decision to label plastic products as “Schedule 1” toxins under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All sorts of plastic products have kept us safe throughout the pandemic and they certainly aren’t toxic when properly disposed of. Banning items like plastic cutlery and takeout containers while we’re relying on them for our curbside pickups seems like the ultimate failure to read the room.

We got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it

Frank Costanza

Next up, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault disappointed Canadian consumers when his office announced it would be implementing a Netflix tax and adding new regulations for the spirits-raising streaming service. Most of us have been camped at home for upwards of nine months, relying on the wonders of Wi-Fi to get us by. “Disappointing” isn’t nearly strong enough to describe how irritating this decision is for consumers.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau rounds out the list of Liberal MPs with whom consumers have serious grievances to air. Speaking of air, and airlines, it was a shame he took more than eight months to defend consumers against airline companies that refused to comply with the law and provide their passengers with refunds for cancelled flights.

Now, consumer disappointment isn’t a partisan affair. All parties are guilty, and in fact every single member of Parliament once again disappointed Canadian consumers when they voted unanimously to continue to support supply management in agriculture. It is little short of scandalous that our MPs — every one of them — continue to defend a system that artificially inflates prices for consumers, even driving some Canadians below the poverty line, all to provide a selective benefit for well-connected farmers. Conservative MPs are especially guilty: they’re supposedly the party of free trade and open markets.

Many of our provincial representatives were disappointing, as well. The premier of P.E.I. made the boneheaded decision to close liquor stores at the start of the pandemic, though he did have the good sense to reverse himself. Ontario Premier Doug Ford made some great consumer decisions, like legalizing alcohol delivery from restaurants. Unfortunately, his winning streak for doing right by consumers ended when, after first allowing cannabis retail deliveries, he then reversed that decision in favour of keeping a government delivery monopoly.

And, of course, we couldn’t conclude Festivus without airing our disappointment with government officials who failed to live by the rules they set for the rest of us. Our federal health minister urged Canadians not to travel but then flew home numerous times to visit family and even got photographed maskless at Pearson Airport. MPP Sam Oosterhoff made the silly mistake of joining an unmasked indoor group selfie, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossed provincial boundaries to visit family at Easter after warning Canadians to avoid family gatherings. “Rules for thee, but not for me” is always a bad look if you want Canadians to take those rules seriously.

With our grievances aired, Canadian consumers wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

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

Originally published here.

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.


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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

$1.1 billion worth of cannabis sold in Canada’s first year of legalization

One year after the legalization of recreational cannabis, Cannabis Benchmarks, a company that tracks cannabis prices, estimates that Canadian licensed producers have sold approximately 1.1 billion dollars worth of pot in the past 12 months, the equivalent to 105,000 kilograms—enough to fill almost two rail freight cars.

According to Statistics Canada, licensed retail outlets sold more than $100 million worth of pot in July, the fifth straight month that sales hit an all-time high.

However, some industry analysts believe those numbers would be much higher if not for the many stumbling blocks the industry has encountered in the first year of legalization. They cite several problems, ranging from non-compliant packaging to the failure of some producers to increase cultivation capacity in time to meet demand. But according to many analysts, the number one problem has been the regulators.

An article published by the Motley Fool, a financial services company, said federal regulators were not prepared to handle legalization of recreational cannabis. Health Canada had more than 800 cultivation, processing, and sales applications when the year started, but took several months or more to review them, the article stated. That “kept cultivators, processors, and retailers waiting in the wings to meet [consumer] demand.”

“There are many risks involved in overseeing cannabis and Health Canada tries to manage risk,” Alanna Sokic, a senior consultant for Global Public Affairs, told Leafly.  “The industry runs at breakneck speed and government does not.”

“Canadian licensed producers have sold approximately $1.1 billion worth of cannabis in the past 12 months, the equivalent to 105,000 kilograms—enough to fill almost two rail freight cars.”

Cannabis Benchmarks

Sales figures should be higher

Analysts have criticized some provinces for being slow to approve retail licenses. In Ontario and Quebec, for example, there are so few brick-and-mortar stores that many consumers are faced with the prospect of buying cannabis online—an unappealing option for the many consumers who want to see and smell their product before buying it legally—or getting it on the illicit market.

Many of them have chosen the latter route. The amount of legal cannabis Canadians have purchased in the past year (105,000 kilos) represents just 11.4% of the total amount they are thought to consume annually.

Canada’s most populous province has completely botched the rollout of the cannabis retail market according to analysts. After Doug Ford became premier of Ontario in June 2018, he announced that his government would award cannabis retail licenses through a lottery system. Two lotteries have been held so far.

This system has been fraught with problems, including inexperienced winners and concerns that some of them have sold their licenses on the illicit market.

“If you needed a brain surgeon, would you pick one through a lottery? Cannabis retail is best left to those who are knowledgeable and reliable,” BCMI Cannabis Report author Chris Damas told Leafly.

There are also indications the lottery system has been gamed by big players. A physical address was required for each entry. In the second lottery, in August, the average number of entries per each winning address was 24. One address was entered into the lottery 173 times. Each entry cost $75.

The amount of legal cannabis Canadians have purchased in the past year (105,000 kilos) represents just 11.4% of the total amount they are thought to consume annually.

Some of the applicants are so unhappy with the system they have taken their case to court. Eleven of them won the right to apply for a retail license through the second lottery but were later disqualified for not providing required documents by the regulator’s deadline. They responded by asking the court for a judicial review. The province’s plan to hold another lottery was suspended until Sept. 27, when the court dismissed the applicants’ request.

There are now just 24 retail outlets in a province that has a population of more than 14 million. “Ontario could support a thousand stores—and that’s a conservative estimate,” Damas told Leafly. “The provincial government blew it. If Ontario was punching at the weight it should be, Canadian sales numbers would be much higher.”

The Ford government attributes the slow rollout of retail to supply issues at the federal level. They say stores might go out of business if they open while there is limited cannabis supply. But as David Clement of the Consumer Choice Center stated in The Globe and Mail, the province doesn’t have the same approach when it comes to granting alcohol licenses for restaurants, bars, or clubs even though there is a high failure rate (60%) for these businesses.

Also, all the provinces are dealing with the same supply issues, yet some have done a much better job of establishing a cannabis retail market. For example, there are more than 300 retail outlets in Alberta, even though the province’s population is just 4.3 million—less than a third the size of Ontario’s population. Alberta outlets sold $124 million dollars’ worth of cannabis in the first eight months of legalization while Ontario outlets sold $121 million.

They key to Alberta’s success is its comparatively free-market regime, say analysts. The province’s regulatory body is the sole distributor of recreational cannabis just as it is in Ontario. However, in Alberta, anyone can apply for a license to open up a retail location. The opening of retail outlets is driven by market demand.

‘Gong show’ will get sorted out

“Sales numbers are what can be expected when some provinces (in the Prairies) embrace a free-market model and others don’t,” Damas said. “It has been a fiasco in certain provinces,” he said, referring to Ontario as well as Quebec, which has 22 stores and a population of eight million.

But Damas and other analysts are optimistic about the future of cannabis retail in Canada. Economist Trevor Tombe at the University of Calgary said in a tweet that “the gong show” in Ontario will get sorted out. Indeed, the province just announced it was launching consultations aimed at getting the private sector more involved in cannabis storage and delivery.

“Sales numbers are what can be expected when some provinces (in the Prairies) embrace a free-market model and others don’t.”

Chris Damas, BCMI Cannabis Report author

“If you look across Canada you will see a patchwork of regulation. Some provinces are performing much better than others because they have prioritized access,” Sokic told Leafly. “In the past year, some lessons have been learned. Provinces who haven’t prioritized market access are considering it so that they can accomplish their objectives. I think the future looks bright.”

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.

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