Pubdate: Wed, 03 Nov 2004
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Christina Blizzard
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


It seems Liberal policy making, both federal and provincial, is largely 
driven by whatever way the wind is blowing on any particular day.

Do the two levels of government ever actually talk to each other about how 
their policies will mesh? The evidence suggests they do not. Take the 
province-wide smoking ban, which Health Minister George Smitherman said 
yesterday is on its way and will be comprehensive.

The feds, at the same time, are decriminalizing the possession of 
marijuana. So it's okay to smoke marijuana but not tobacco? How does that work?

The Ontario Medical Association keeps telling us that it's not so much 
nicotine as the dirty delivery system -- smoking -- that kills. At least 
the nicotine cancer sticks are filter-tipped, while roll-your-own joints 
are not.

(I won't even go into the outrageous bid by Toronto Coun. Howard Moscoe to 
end the tax-free status for legion halls if they allow members to smoke. 
What kind of city is this? Any lout can smoke dope but veterans in the 
confines of a private club can't smoke a legal product without bringing the 
wrath of government down on their heads?)

Tough Legislation

Not just that. The province is bringing in tough legislation that will 
allow hydro utilities to cut off electricity to homes if they suspect they 
are being used as marijuana grow houses.

Okay, I understand grow houses are a massive problem, but whatever happened 
to being innocent until proven guilty? We do still have due process in this 
country, don't we? If some homes are racking up big hydro bills, why not 
perform the same kind of police investigation that happens for every other 
crime? Since when did we hand over policing to electricity utilities?

It used to be that suspicious activity was investigated by the police. If 
the activity was criminal, charges were laid -- and at that point, the 
police might request that the electricity be turned off. Apparently not any 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for cutting out smoking -- both tobacco and 
marijuana. And I'm all for shutting down grow houses. But as long as our 
federal government is sending the message to young people that possession 
of small amounts of pot is A-OK, you can expect grow-ops to keep growing 
like weeds.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that once upon a time governments balanced their 
books by tailoring programs to fit the level of taxation voters found 
acceptable. Some time ago, that premise was thrown out the window. 
Governments have become increasingly dependent on gambling revenues -- most 
recently from casinos -- to balance the books.

You can argue that gambling is voluntary -- sort of a surtax on the 
foolish, if you will. But the fact is that gambling addiction is so real 
and so pervasive that the province recently dedicated $37 million to help 
people whose addiction to it is out of control. A recent study showed that 
35% of gambling revenues come from the 5% of the population that is 
addicted. That means a lot of families suffer hardships because one or more 
members are stuffing their paycheques into one-armed bandits.

"There is no doubt about it, we have come to rely on gambling revenues," 
Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday.

"Perhaps in a better world we wouldn't, but the fact of the matter is it's 
here, it's here to stay," McGuinty said.

Addicted to Revenues

So there you have it. The provincial government is addicted to gambling 
revenues. And both it and the feds are addicted to tobacco taxes -- 
otherwise, they'd simply cut the hypocrisy and outlaw smoking completely.

And how long do you think it will be before the feds, having decriminalized 
marijuana, look for a way to tax its use? And how long after that will it 
take for the province to decide they'll sell it from government outlets -- 
our own MCBO? Which brings us to booze, the other sin tax the province 
couldn't do without.

Instead of the good management and prudent budgeting we had a couple of 
decades ago, we now have hypocritical governments at all levels desperately 
looking for revenues to pay for their wild overspending.

These same governments pay lip service to cracking down on addictions -- 
but they are themselves hooked on the wages of sin.
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