More Smoke and Mirrors
Author: Andrew Phillips
Article Published: 03/09/2008
So the Canadian feds are giving tobacco farmers 300 million to get out of growing tobacco: this is good news I suppose, if you're a tobacco farmer, but let's read between the lines, shall we?
First off, the only reason they are getting any money is because Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans/Benson & Hedges were hit with a billion dollar fine for their involvement in cross-border cigarette smuggling going back to the 1990s. If the feds had lost that court case the farmers would still be swinging in the wind and no one would give a damn. Since the farmers say they need a billion dollars, why not give them all the money from the court case? After all, this would cost the taxpayers nothing as the fine would cover the whole shebang.
As to the stressful time tobacco families have endured: who caused it? Why, the government of Dalton McGuinty caused it by continuously increasing rules and regulations so that they all had to keep upgrading their equipment just to stay within the law to operate, some of them spending tens of thousands of dollars they really didn't have, and being driven more and more into debt with Dalton's gang sticking it to them ever more and more. Some of those farmers were so stressed out by the actions of the Ontario government their families had them on suicide watches. The stress these folks endured for years was actually at the hands of both governments, who now paint themselves out as saviours, when their foot-dragging was the main culprit. The cost of producing this product got to the point where tobacco families in actual fact haven't made any money in years and have been after a buyout to go into other lines of farming.
Another point made is that demand has dropped to the point where farmers might produce 20 million pounds this year, down from 85 million pounds in 2005. But has the demand actually dropped? A recent letter to the Ottawa Citizen had a group of people saying they had collected almost twelve thousand cigarette butts and that fully a quarter of them were contraband cigarettes. Along with that a Quickie store in Ottawa recently closed, with the owner stating that in 2005 they were selling 120 cartons a month, but that this had dropped to 55 by the time they decided to close the store. There are, or were, two more stores they were contemplating closing, paying a fine to get out of their lease earlier, for the same reason. This was passed off by some people in the media as people quitting smoking in droves. What the empirical evidence now points to is that smokers have decide to buy their cigarettes from other sources and not give their money to a provincial government that paid for a campaign on TV that said smokers smell like crap.
All in all, this is just more smoke and mirrors on the part of the governments, both provincial and federal, to make it look like they are really doing something to stop people from smoking. Is there any mention of stopping the importation of tobacco products from outside Canada? In a word, no. Evidence reveals that there must be a demand for flue-cured tobacco, to a degree that they are importing it, from Virginia. So the governments still get their tax money but any profits are going to farmers and businesses outside Canada. Does anyone really think they are going to cut off the source of almost 10 billion dollars in tobacco taxes with the McGuinty government promising every special interest group going more and more of the taxpayers' money? Are they going to take the bull by the horns and make it illegal to sell tobacco? Not likely as far as I can see.
While I am happy to see the farmers getting something for all the stress they have endured let us not fool ourselves, or let the governments fool us, into believing that they are going to stop the importation of tobacco or make tobacco an illegal product in the near future. Of course if it does become an illegal product the Ontario government just might contemplate giving smokers a place where they can get their fix. Hell, they might even have the taxpayers pay for their cigarettes, which I'm sure would go over really well with the electorate. After all, they give needles to crack cocaine addicts to help them kill themselves. Funny how we are supposed to have sympathy for crackheads but people who enjoy tobacco products can be vilified by the very governments that sell it, profit from it, and allow its continued importation. What a strange country I live in now.
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