WYNNE SELF-SERVING WITH MARIJUANA PLAN
TELLING IT LIKE IT is, the Ontario government’s plans for dealing with legalized marijuana are nothing short of a cash grab, coupled with some pandering to the public sector unions Kathleen Wynne hopes will win her votes among a group responsible for acting against the public interest.
Never mind talk about preventing kids from getting weed – that will continue as it always has – the decision to have the LCBO oversee sales is purely about Queen’s Park cashing in on the federal government’s dubious look-how-hip-we-are policies.
The province plans to roll out 40 standalone LCBOlike stores next year when the feds legalize marijuana as of July 1. More will follow, to 150 by 2020. Some kind of Marijuana Control Board of Ontario will see to it that overpriced products are sold by unionized government workers in bricks-and-mortar locations financed by taxpayers.
Having worked to corner the market on booze and gambling – promoting both incessantly to increase much-needed revenue given its fiscal incompetence – why would the province do anything but opt for a cashier cash cow?
Critics have already pointed out that attempts to limit supply – few locations, high prices – will likely serve only to increase black market sales, as there is already a wellestablished network in place.
Platitudes about stopping organized crime aside, the established supply and the relative ease of growing/ sourcing weed in small quantities are likely to test Wynne’s desire to corner the market on another vice.
Drawing on its treatment of cigarette sales, the province aims for plain packaging and clinical handling of the product. Tobacco is sold through multiple private businesses. Governments love the tax revenues, but don’t have a direct stake in the business. Thus we see antismoking ads. Contrast that to the promotional efforts for liquor and gambling, the sins owned by the province.
The current plan might hark back to the earlier days of liquor sales – uninviting locations, furtive orders on slips of paper, backroom stashes – but how long do you think it will be before we start seeing lifestyle ads and glossy magazines? It took decades to get liquor laws out of the stone age and, perhaps, to the bronze age we have today – too many rules, too many taxes, too little convenience – but a profligate government desperate for money may look to speed things up.
Where you stand on the legalization issue in general would colour your stance on such an outcome, but chances are the province will latch on to the money and do whatever it can to generate more.
That’s the reality of a situation in which we have a government – like most – that insists on spending without accountability, including to future taxpayers. Wynne, in particular, is intent on funnelling billions of public dollars into Liberal re-election schemes, from outright fraud to buying off the public sector, moves that run contrary to the public good in almost every case and to the law in some – see advances in the gas plant and Sudbury byelection scandals, two clear instances of a government putting its own fortunes ahead of what’s right.
We can expect no better from this latest foray into money-grabbing, election-rigging territory.