Cannabis legalization plan should allow local businesses to participate

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The Green Party of Ontario strongly supports a cannabis legalization plan with regulations focused on safety. We believe in placing restrictions on under age use.

We support a cannabis distribution plan that puts an end to the underground market and the criminalization of cannabis. We believe cannabis legalization should enrich our communities and not be a drain on resources.

We support a legalization plan that benefits small business, local farmers and indigenous entrepreneurs.

Sadly, the Liberal government’s proposed marijuana monopoly undermines all of this.
A small number of government-controlled dispensaries will do nothing to deter the underground market. It might even make the underground market stronger.

A vibrant underground market will do nothing to deter the high rate of young people using cannabis in Canada. An underground market will continue to benefit organized crime, lead to the use of unregulated and possibly unsafe cannabis, and make our communities less safe.

The government’s monopolization plan seems to ramp up the criminalization of existing dispensaries, which will unnecessarily drain resources from programs for mental health and addictions to support additional law enforcement.

The Liberal plan is designed to support insiders and the well-connected. It is a plan written for Bay Street, instead of Main Street.

The GPO believes there is a better way forward. Ontario could achieve the goals of eliminating the underground market and making our communities safer. We could have a plan that benefits communities by making them safer and more prosperous. We could achieve this while also placing restrictions on cannabis, especially youth access.

The Green Party is calling on the government to reconsider its monopolization plan. Instead the Green Party is asking the government to develop a cannabis distribution plan with strict regulations on licensed dispensaries.

The GPO is calling for a system that:

1. Regulates and licenses small businesses and dispensaries to sell cannabis in a safe and controlled way;
2. Ensures tax revenues from cannabis sales are used to fund education, mental health and addiction programs;
3. Creates more local jobs and prosperity by supporting small businesses, local farmers, and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Why not legalize – under strict regulations – the tens of thousands of cannabis providers who want to operate safe, legal businesses, but are currently defined as criminals by government policy?

The vast majority of these people are otherwise law abiding citizens. They want to come into the light, but the Liberal plan forces them to stay in the shadows.

Justice Department records support this: ninety-five percent of cannabis growing cases in court have no connection to organized crime or gangs, and the people charged were “otherwise law-abiding.”

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada should be designed to end the criminalization of law abiding citizens.

If structured properly, the cannabis market could provide local economic and community benefits that the craft beer industry is starting to provide. After decades of fighting for market access—trying to break through the government and big beer oligopoly–craft breweries are popping up in communities across Ontario. These breweries are creating local jobs, providing local economic benefits and contributing to the vibrancy of our communities.

Likewise, licensed and regulated boutique cannabis dispensaries could provide opportunities for creative new business start ups, local job creation and a market outlet for local farmers. Bringing cannabis out of the shadowy underground market would make our communities safer and more vibrant.

Hopefully we’ve learned by now that monopolizing beer sales was a mistake. Why make the same mistake with cannabis sales?

I understand that people have valid concerns about cannabis legalization. Legitimate concerns about the locations of retail outlets, the safety of how cannabis is sold and used, and the social and financial costs of regulating the market. People are concerned about the rate of use, especially among young people.

We share these concerns about the individual and public health effects of cannabis use.
But we believe these concerns can be addressed with strict rules and regulations, not with a monopoly that will undermine the reasons for legalization.

I strongly encourage the Ontario government to abandon its cannabis monopolization plan.

Instead, look to provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and Alberta who are developing plans that do not monopolize the retailing of marijuana. Government’s role should be to regulate the retail cannabis sector, not to become the exclusive legal retailer.

Thank you,

Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario

Grassy Narrows needs local Mercury Home and Treatment Centre

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TORONTO – The Green Party of Ontario fully supports the call by the people of Grassy Narrows for construction of a local Mercury Home and Treatment Centre to help the survivors of decades of mercury poisoning in the First Nations community.

GPO Leader Mike Schreiner says Grassy Narrows residents should not have to travel to distant health facilities, where they report intense loneliness and alienation because they are separated from their families, their community and their culture.

“It is shameful that successive Ontario governments ignored the devastating impact of mercury poisoning on the people of Grassy Narrows. We owe them proper treatment close to home,” said Schreiner. “It is wrong to force people to travel hundreds of kilometres to receive the health care they deserve.”

Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister has said researchers have concluded that more than 90 per cent of the people in Grassy Narrows and the nearby Wabaseemoong (White Dog) First Nation have symptoms of mercury poisoning, including neurological problems and birth defects.

A 2016 report, recently published by The Toronto Star, found mercury contamination in the area has lingered for decades and likely still does, despite repeated assurances from public officials over the years that there was no ongoing source of mercury in local rivers.

As scientists sounded the alarm that the neurotoxin was poisoning the fish and the people who eat it, “government official after government official kept repeating that there was no ongoing source of mercury in the Wabigoon River that is the lifeblood of Grassy Narrows,” reported the Star.

“It was a betrayal for successive provincial governments to hide the fact they knew mercury was still present at a former paper mill in Dryden. We can not tolerate environmental racism in Ontario,” said Schreiner.

“No one wants to live in a province that allows people to be poisoned.”

The mercury contamination also destroyed the local economy by forcing the closure of the commercial fishing industry. The Liberals must take real action to clean up the mercury contamination.

“How can the Grassy Narrows First Nation thrive when the river they rely on for water, food and their economy continues to be poisoned by mercury?” asked Schreiner.

The Green Party will continue to support the Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations to make sure the government fulfills its duty to them.

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Nuclear needs an independent cost-benefit analysis

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Today’s report from the Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) is an extremely limited, one-sided look at the Liberal’s nuclear program in Ontario.

“What Ontarians really need is a comprehensive analysis of the best options for our province,” says Jose Etcheverry, GPO critic for Environment and Climate Change. “In fact, all nuclear projects in Ontario’s history have been late and over budget; Pickering should have been closed in 2014 and it is irresponsible to keep it open any longer. Darlington is already 400% over budget on just one component, showing Ontario must take off ramps away from nuclear.”

The FAO report admits: “The present report is not a comprehensive cost-benefit or business case analysis of the Nuclear Refurbishment Plan relative to alternatives. Such an analysis would have to consider important issues such as economic, environmental, security factors and associated non-financial risks.”

Without an independent review of the costs and alternatives, we cannot know what the best option is for Ontario.

What we do know is that nuclear is risky and expensive. Once it’s built we are going to be pushed to use it, undermining conservation efforts. Nuclear inhibits our ability to use emerging technologies that may be cheaper and cleaner to run, that also don’t have as many safety concerns or problems with storing waste.

Ontario still has no plan for storing radioactive nuclear waste, instead punting yet another problem to the next generation.

Last, no company will insure nuclear plants because they are too risky. It’s simply not fair to put taxpayers on the hook for them.