Pubdate: Thu, 14 Dec 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Rob Ferguson
Page: A12


Is Ontario keeping too tight a lid on pot?

Premier Kathleen Wynne faced that question at a town hall meeting
Wednesday night in Brampton, where about 250 citizens - some with
anger in their voices - grilled her about high local auto-insurance
rates, health care, workers' compensation, the Tarion new home
warranty system, the rising minimum wage, the recent five-week
community college strike and other issues.

"Can we not have the private sector?" one young man asked as the clock
ticks down to the legalization of marijuana across Canada on July 1.

That's when Ontario plans to open the first 40 government-run
recreational cannabis shops.

Other provinces are allowing private retailers into the business with
strict oversight, but Wynne said Ontario doesn't trust that model.

"We have a very strong organization, the LCBO," Wynne told the crowd
at the Century Gardens Community Centre, referring to the liquor
agency's control of the cannabis-only shops. "We need a safe and
responsible system that protects young people and is designed to
undercut the black market."

While critics have scoffed at that notion, insisting 40 stores is a
drop in the bucket in a province as big as Ontario, Wynne said Ontario
will boost that number to 150 shops in the next couple of years.

Moderated by former Rogers TV host Nav Nanwa, the evening was the
second in a series of Wynne townhall meetings to be held across
Ontario. The meetings are organized and paid for by the government to
make Wynne, who faces re-election next June 7, more accountable and
accessible to the public. In that vein, audience members weren't shy
about pressing their concerns.

"When is our pay equity coming?" asked one woman who works at a
non-profit community organization.

"It's been 30 years. We're still waiting," she added in a testy tone
after the premier said the Liberal government is working on it. Wynne
was also peppered with questions from people angry at the Tarion home
warranty program and high auto-insurance rates.

"It needs to be rebuilt. That's what we're going to do," she added,
citing statistics that auto-insurance rates in Ontario have dropped 6
per cent - a comment that drew murmurs of "no" throughout the audience.

More town halls are planned, but the next location has not been
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MAP posted-by: Matt