Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anti-smoker fanatics in bed with government

In 2006, Dalton McGuinty and his Liberals passed the Smoke Free Ontario Act. The Act banned smoking in all public places including bars, casinos and restaurants.

On Feb. 7, 2007, Premier McGuinty said making it illegal for parents to smoke in a car with their kids was a slippery slope that could infringe on people's rights.

An article in the Canadian Press noted that McGuinty wasn’t interested in banning smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 16. “If the province bans smoking in cars with kids”, McGuinty said, “banning smoking in houses and apartment buildings could be next”.

A year later, on Feb. 27, 2008, in an article in the Toronto Star, McGuinty had a change of heart and changed his mind, saying: "I've committed to them to take a second look at it."

McGuinty was referring to a private member’s bill introduced in the Ontario Legislature in October, 2007 by Liberal backbencher Dave Orazietti to ban smoking in cars carrying minors under the age of 16. The bill was strongly supported by Ontario’s Minister of Health Promotion, Margaret Best. McGuinty claimed he was being lobbied heavily by Best and Orazietti to support the bill.

"We have heard from Ontarians on this issue and we are taking decisive action," said Best. "The proposed ban is the next logical step in our efforts to protect Ontarians from the dangers of tobacco use." A slip of the tongue perhaps; the bill was publicly touted as a means to protect children from the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke, not to protect smokers from themselves.

The ban was approved on June 16, 2008, and became effective January 21, 2009 (Weedless Wednesday).

None of the three, McGuinty, Orazietti or Best, mentioned that the impetus for the ban legislation came from the Ontario Tobacco-free Network (OTN) which was funded by . . . the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion.

OTN was created in 2000 as a provincial interagency network consisting of the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division (CCS), the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario (HSFO) and The Lung Association (TLA). Their website claims the Ministry provided the funding while the three member organizations plus the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco (OCAT) provided “support in kind”.

The three “charity” organizations are the same organizations forming the principal membership of OCAT.

OCAT was formed in 1992 by five leading anti-smoker organizations; The Canadian Cancer Society Ontario Division, The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, The Non-Smokers' Rights Association, The Ontario Lung Association and The Ontario Medical Association. Its purpose was to secure passage of Ontario's Tobacco Control Act (TCA) which evolved into the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

The OTN mandate was to lobby for the introduction of bans on tobacco displays (power walls), smoking in cars transporting minors under the age of 16 and smoking in multi-units apartments buildings. The OTN website says: “While the founding partners remain committed to their ongoing tobacco control work, the OTN has achieved its mandate and with a sense of accomplishment closed its operations on July 31, 2008.”

So, McGuinty publicly anguishes over the possible infringement of people’s rights. But, quietly, behind the scenes, his Ministry of Health Promotion was funding a specially created lobby group to pressure both him and his government into passing the very legislation which was ostensibly causing him so much concern.

The OTN was, in fact, the equivalent of a posse of hired guns, bought and paid for by the provincial government to lobby itself (the provincial government) and put the screws to a sizeable minority (20%) of its citizens. And worse, the bulk of the evidence on which the politicians relied to support the various bans was also provided by these same organizations.

Public policy was, and is, being formed, not by elected government officials, but by activist groups and lobbyists with access to those government officials. These non-governmental organizations bring considerable influence to bear on government to legislate conditions they deem necessary to advance their cause; de-normalizatising, degrading and demeaning smokers.

And, they’re doing it with tax-payer dollars; tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. And, at the very least, 20% of those taxpayer dollars are provided by the targets of the anti-smoker de-normalization campaign; smokers. (In all likelihood, smokers provided all the funding for OTN activities through the usurious levels of taxation placed on tobacco products by senior levels of government.)

And, what should also be troubling to all Ontario taxpayers, smokers in particular, is the contention of the OTN that it had “achieved its mandate”. Two of their objectives have met with success; the ban on cigarette displays and the ban on smoking in cars transporting minors in cars.

One initiative, however, remains unresolved, at least to the satisfaction of the anti-smoker cult. The OTN also had a ban on smoking in multi-unit dwellings on their wish list. Or maybe they have inside information which has not yet been made known to the public.

Is this the year McGuinty changes his mind about smoking in the privacy of your own home?

The OTN website will remain active until at least March 31, 2009.

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