Weed and the Speaker
There are two big issues dominating the two provinces I’ve lived in: the BC legislative Speaker here in BC, and how marijuana will be sold in Ontario.
In BC this week, we witnessed a big surprise when Darryl Plecas of the BC Liberals chose to become Speaker, despite his former promise not to do so. This gives the NDP-Green alliance a three seat advantage, although it will likely dwindle to two next Spring when the Kelowna West by-election is called, as it’s a very safe BC Liberal riding. For NDP and Green supporters, they claim this is a case of putting the interest of the province first, while BC Liberal supporters are calling Plecas a traitor. If this change didn’t have an impact on the balance of power, I wouldn’t really care, but as a BC Liberal who is quite worried about the damage the NDP and Greens might do, I believe this was a major mistake on the part of Plecas.
The NDP and the Greens have every right to form an alliance to oust the BC Liberals, but since the BC Liberals got the most votes and seats, I don’t believe they are under any obligation to help make it easier for them. I wasn’t able to vote in the last election because I hadn’t been living in BC for six months, but I would have voted BC Liberal, and I have since joined as a member. Had the speaker been an NDP, only one seat would need to change in a by-election, or one member of either the NDP or Greens would have to quit or be kicked out of caucus; now we need two, which greatly increases the chances of the coalition government lasting a full four years. Some may say that brings stability, and it does, but since most BC Liberals strongly disagree with the direction the NDP and Greens are planning to take the province, it is not their responsibility to make it easier for them. The tighter the leash they are on, the less likely they are to do something harmful.
I’m fine with the BC Liberals supporting the government on individual issues where there is agreement, but since the NDP and Greens are showing no interest in working with the BC Liberals while in government, I don’t think we have any moral obligation so support them on matters of confidence. Going forward, I don’t think the BC Liberals should dwell on this, but certainly I can say that I like most BC Liberal supporters are not happy with the events that unfolded this week. In terms of recall, I think if Plecas’ constituents wish to do so, it’s their right, although recalls almost always fail due to the high threshold. I do hope that if the BC Liberals pick up a Green or NDP riding in a by-election at some point in the future, Plecas will resign as speaker as this will demonstrate the loss of confidence in the new government.
In Ontario, premier Kathleen Wynne is promising to establish a government monopoly for the sales of marijuana similar to the LCBO’s regulation of alcohol. On the surface, it seems like a wise idea; marijuana is a drug much like alcohol in terms of its recreational use and consumption; except if alcohol had just been legalized today, there is no way it would sold the way it currently is in Ontario. The LCBO is a throwback to prohibition, and the only reason it hasn’t been privatized is due to the $1.7 billion in brings in annually, in terms of revenue, alongside the fact it would mean layoffs of many middle class jobs. The creation of the LCBO was a mistake, and it seems silly to repeat the mistake again.
I believe marijuana should be sold at specialty shops that are off limits to minors; the locations and number of outlets should be restricted, but I believe they should be privately owned and operated, with the government regulating and taxing them. Having the government both own and regulate marijuana creates a conflict of interest as due to the revenue, giving the government incentive to encourage its consumption. As for alcohol regulation, I think Ontario should loosen the rules a bit, by doing three things:
1. Allowing private liquor stores to open and compete with the LCBO, but with restrictions on location and numbers, much like it is currently in BC.
2. Allowing all supermarkets that meet the requirements to sell beer, wine, and cider to be able to do so, but keep hard liquor out, rather than limiting quantities to only 450 supermarkets for beer and cider and 300 for wine.
3. In settlements that have a population of at least 50 people and no LCBO, one convenience store in that area should be given the right to sell alcohol, much like we already have with rural agency stores. Unlike the current stipulations, the 10km rule should be dropped. Preference should be given to establishment that don’t sell motor fuel where possible, to discourage drinking and driving.