Monopolizing cannabis sales in Ontario the wrong move

The Green Party of Ontario remains opposed to the government’s monopoly on the retailing of cannabis.

Cannabis legalization plan should allow local businesses to participate

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

Real People, Real Solutions – Rowanwood Conserver Society Coop

Real People, Real Solutions is a series of interviews with people who are making a difference in communities across Ontario. Hosted by GPO leader Mike Schreiner.

In this episode, Mike talks to Gord Ball from Rowanwood Conserver Society Co-operative Inc., who is one of the early adopters of solar power in Ontario. In an effort to conserve energy, Gord was one of the pioneers who installed a solar microfit system, which has helped him save energy and make money with clean community power.

Nuclear needs an independent cost-benefit analysis

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.

 

Fit review unveils new prices, greater municipal voice

By KRISTEN SMITH

Ontario’s Feed-in-tariff (FIT) program review will see projects with municipal support or community participation receive priority approval.

Recommendations from a scheduled review of the FIT program were announced last Thursday.

Minister of Energy Chris Bentley says the province confirmed its commitment to green energy.

“The report and our commitment reflects the fact that we’ve listened to municipalities, listened to communities, and organizations and are implementing an approach to locating these projects in the future which will give much greater priority to those that either have municipal support or community participation,” said Bentley in a teleconference Friday.

“We’re also making sure that when a project gets the nod there’s a mandatory meeting at the very beginning between the municipality, the community, and the project developer so that everybody knows what is being proposed, what the approach is, and any issues can be identified and dealt with,” said Bentley.

Brian Wilton, who works in sales and marketing for Sundial Solar PV in Collingwood, says he is glad to be back in business after a four-month stall while awaiting the review recommendations.

“The fact that there has been a renewed commitment to the Green Energy Act is a positive thing for my business,” said Wilton.

Wilton says the release of rates and a streamlined process is music to his ears.

Kristopher Stevens, executive director of the Ontario Sustainability Energy Association, says the recommendations give the local community more influence earlier in the project.

“Things are going in the right direction,” said Stevens.

Stevens says a third-party negotiating system between community and developer would he helpful, which would give them a “place to meet that’s on middle ground.”

He says the although “the price has fallen significantly” (the most significant drop of more than 30% for mirco-FIT solar rooftop installations), the new prices will still result in a reasonable return.

Wilton says the prices are in check with current equipment costs, and those who make the investment will still see returns of more than 10%.

Wilton says people are not interested in solar installations out of greed -it’s a reasonable, environmental business.

“The declining prices for green energy is a sign of the success of the program,’ said Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner.

“The Green Party has long advocated that prices should come down as demand for green energy grows, and companies become more efficient in producing green energy … and that is certainly happening.”

Schreiner says projects with community ownership and municipal support will have priority access means a stronger municipal voice in future applications.

“That’s a huge step forward and one that we’ve been advocating for quite a while now,” said Schreiner, adding he thinks the program would have met less controversy if it had taken this approach from the start.

The Dunedin resident points out the wind projects in Clearview Township won’t be affected by any changes.

Schreiner says he hopes Skyway 124 and WPD Canada will take the community-based approach as they move forward.

Schreiner says he’s disappointed there isn’t a mechanism for community energy planning.

“If we want to use electricity we’re going to need to come up with new sources of generation,” he said. “Generally what happens is no community wants a new energy plant – whether it’s a gas plant, wind turbines, or a coal plant -communities tend to reject them.”

He says a municipality which doesn’t want a specific project should be able to come to the table with an alternative.

“If the province is going to produce energy we have to have a way for the province to move forward without people saying no everywhere,” said Schreiner.

“There needs to be a mechanism for a strong municipal voice in local energy planning, while at the same time enabling the province to move forward with new sources of generation to keep our lights one,” said Schreiner. “I don’t think we’ve hit that balance yet with the new energy plan, but we’re certainly moving in the right direction.”

The report considered about 2,900 online submissions, 1,700 people participated in a webinar, and more than 80 meetings with associations.

“We didn’t do everything that everybody wanted some would want us to go further, some not as far –we struck the right balance for the people of Ontario,” said Bentley. “It’d be fair to say we listen very carefully and the report reflects much of the advice we were given -not everything -but much of the advice we were given.”

“There’s a lot more shaping of where these projects can actually end up,” said Bentley.

He says there is a lot of competition for renewable energy project.

“I think we’ll see the projects gravitate to those areas and communities that are very supportive of them,” he said.

FIT prices will be reviewed annually, with any changes announced on Jan. 1.

kristen.smith@gmail.com

See the original article at The Enterprise-Bulletin

We need your help to support clean water and prime farmland

Dear Friends, community members and supporters,

As a resident of Dufferin-Caledon for over 20 years, I am writing today to ask for your help. 

You have likely heard about the proposed mega-quarry in Melancthon Township – the one that proposes to excavate 2,300 acres of farmland – the size of 2,000 football fields and deeper than Niagara Falls.

This issue affects us all – the justification for such a large quantity of aggregates is the demand for concrete around the province.

For example, in Dufferin-Caledon, south of the Green Belt, there are about 28,000 acres of farmland on the Peel plain which will ultimately be developed. If the mega-quarry goes ahead we are destroying thousands of acres of farmland in Melancthon to pave over tens of thousands of acres in southern Caledon and other ridings across the GTA.

It’s clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with this scenario.

Located at the headwaters of five major river systems, the quarry would manage and manipulate about 600 million litres of water every day- that is approximately 25% of Ontario’s average daily water usage!  Despite the size and impact of this massive quarry, this project does not require an Environmental Assessment. Instead, it is subject to approval by Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) through the less rigorous Aggregate Resources Act.

Please take a few minutes to join me, community members and a increasing numbers of concerned Ontarians and Canadians who do not want this mega-quarry that threatens our water and farmland. 

There are four days left to register a comment to MNR in opposition to the quarry via the Environment RegistryPlease submit your comment under the Environmental Bill of Rights here before July 11. For an example, please find Mike Schreiner’s submission here.

You can also write John Wilkinson, Minister of the Environment, asking him to designate this project for a full Environmental Assessment.  A sample letter is available here and may be sent to the address below.

Thanks for taking the time to make a difference. 

Sincerely,

Rob Strang
Candidate, Dufferin Caledon
Deputy Leader – Green Party of Ontario