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UCP brings in new law aimed at vapers and smokers

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The UCP government is cracking down on smoking and vaping after consulting with more than 10,000 Albertans.

Bill 19, the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Amendment Act, follows a review of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act led by MLA Jeremy Nixon in response to the increase in vaping, smoking and tobacco use in Alberta. 

Alberta is the only province without vaping legislation.

Teen vaping rates (used in past 30 days) surged from eight per cent in 2014-15 to 22 per cent in 2016-17 and to 30 per cent in 2018-19 (Grades 10-12).

“The proposed act specifically addresses youth vaping, and would add enforceable restrictions on the possession, promotion, display, sale and use of these products, in alignment with tobacco laws. It would also include the expansion of smoke and vape-free areas, especially at places frequented by children and youth,” the government said in a release.

Albertans who smoke or vape also appear to be at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19. The government didn’t provide any medical evidence to back up that statement.

The proposed new legislation says:

  • Minimum age for purchasing, possessing or using vaping products would align with tobacco products (18 years and older).
  • In convenience stores and gas stations, vaping displays, advertisements and promotion would need to align with tobacco restrictions.
  • Aligning places where vaping and tobacco products can not be used will reduce confusion for the public and law enforcement. New places where vaping and smoking will not be allowed include:
    • on hospital, school or child care properties
    • on playgrounds, sports or playing fields, skateboard or bicycle parks, public outdoor pools or splash pads, zoos and outdoor theatres
  • Restrictions on the locations of vaping product sales will align with tobacco restrictions, and include:
    • health facilities
    • public post-secondary institutions
    • stores where pharmacies are located
    • vending machines or temporary facilities
  • Alberta’s proposed legislation will establish the authority to consider restrictions on flavoured vape if it is not covered by potential federal legislation.

“This proposed legislation sends a strong message to youth, and anyone who thinks it is OK to supply them with vaping products – there will be fines for possession and consumption. Selling or giving these products to minors will have consequences. Reducing health harms by keeping vaping products out of the hands of youth is a priority for both me and this government, and it’s what Albertans asked us to do,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

But the moves were slammed by David Clement, the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

“Alberta’s regulations are a huge step backwards from the perspective of harm reduction. Simply put, regulating vaping on par with cigarettes shows that the government is incapable of regulating based on the risk of each product,” Clement told the Western Standard.

“We know, from credible health agencies like Public Health England, that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking, which is why the rules around vaping should not be as strict as cigarettes. More importantly, regulating vaping like smoking discourages adult smokers from making the switch and quitting cigarettes, which is a net negative for public health.”

Addiction to tobacco products is the leading cause of preventable illness, disability and death in Alberta and yet the prevalence of smoking in Alberta is second highest in Canada.

Health costs for Alberta as a result of the use of tobacco products are estimated at $6 billion over the next four years.

In 2018-19, 15.6 per cent of Albertans aged 18 or older indicated they smoked cigarettes daily or occasionally.

“We thank the Alberta government and the Minister of Health for introducing legislation to help curb the youth vaping epidemic. Effective vaping legislation will be aligned with existing tobacco legislation to the greatest extent possible in order to provide maximum protection for youth. The Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act has contributed to achieving the lowest smoking rates among adults and youth on record in Alberta,” said “Les Hagen, executive director, Action on Smoking & Health.

In October, Nixon was tasked by Shandro with reviewing Alberta’s smoking and vaping laws.

“Thank you to everyone who participated in our consultations, wrote in, or completed our survey. Your insights and solutions were truly inspiring. Bill 19 reflects the feedback we received and ensures that we are taking the right steps to protect our youth from both the known and yet-to-be-known harms of vaping,” said Nixon

In February, the government put a 20 per cent tax on vaping products.

“This legislation is long overdue and serves as an additional deterrent to limit young people’s access to harmful vaping products. School boards across Alberta welcome additional restrictions that will keep our children safer and healthier at school and in their communities,” said Lorrie Jess, president, Alberta School Boards’ Association.

According to Budget 2020, the goal of the tax is to discourage usage, especially among youth who will hopefully see the increased cost as a deterrent from either picking up or maintaining their vaping habits.

Alberta will became the fourth province in Canada to tax vaping products, along with with Nova Scotia, B.C. and Saskatchewan.

Officials have said every 10 per cent hike in the price of tobacco, researchers have noted an eight to 12 per cent decrease in use among youth.

The government expects the new tax will not only discourage youth vaping, but also net the province $4 million in 2020-21 and a total of $8 million by 2022-23.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Nunavut’s former NHL star Tootoo says Eskimo name is OK with him

“The name of the Edmonton Esimos is not objectionable to me.,” said Jordin Tootoo

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Arguably the Inuit’s greatest-ever athlete says the Edmonton Eskimos’ name doesn’t offend him.

There have been calls to change the name as some people say it is insulting to Canada’s Eskimos.

The CFL team has said they will speed up a review of its name and provide an update at the end of the month after one of its sponsors announced it plans to cut ties with the team unless it changes its name.

Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuk to play in the NHL, said in a statement the discussion should be “around how the Inuk people feel” about the term.

Jordin Tootoo

“We should all understand what the term means to the Inuk people,” he said.

“My father’s generation connects this term to describe who they are. He would refer to himself as an Eskimo. My generation refers to itself as Inuk. What is important to me is that people understand this. And, when referring to the Inuit people, they respect that we refer to ourselves today as Inuk.

“I understand there are names of sports teams that bring back feelings of oppression for people and I can see why those names should be changed.

“So, this makes me ask the question, does the term Eskimo for the Edmonton franchise bring back feelings of oppression for Inuk people? For me, it does not. That is not a reason to keep the name. There could be others for whom it does create those feelings.”

He said the team should explain how their nickname came about.

“Was it racially charged, or, was it because of admiration for the ability of the Eskimos to thrive in cold climates, for their mental and physical toughness and for their resilience?” he said.

“My point is that context really does matter. And, they need to be honest with themselves and with the public. Truth goes a long way.

“The name of the Edmonton Esimos is not objectionable to me. This does not mean they should keep the name. But I think the discussion should be around how the Inuk people feel about it. Some might feel pride. Some might feel hurt. Either way, that is the group that should be consulted.”

The Rankin Inlet native played 13 seasons in the NHL with Nashville, Detroit, New Jersey and Chicago.

He retired in 2018.

The team did announce in February they were keeping the name.

“There were a range of views regarding the club’s name but no consensus emerged to support a name change. The club has therefore decided to retain its name,” the team said in a statement then.

“The Edmonton Eskimo Football Club will be increasing its engagement in Canada’s north following an extensive year-long formal research and engagement program with Inuit leaders and community members across Canada.”

The team said it had met with Inuit and community leaders in Iqaluit, Inuvik, Yellowknife and Ottawa, did in-depth interviews with Inuit across the north and in Edmonton, and completed a telephone survey amongst Inuit across Canada.

“A key learning for us was the desire of northern communities to increase the club’s engagement with them. As a result, we have invested the time and resources to create a Northern Community Engagement Program and will continue to engage with Inuit leaders and community members to strengthen the ties between the club and the Inuit community,” said Janice Agrios, Chair of the Board of Directors for the team.

Janice Agrios Courtesy Edmonton Eskimos

In 2015, in the week leading up to the Grey Cup in Edmonron, Natan Obed — president of Canada’s national Inuit organization, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami — said teams shouldn’t been named after ethnic groups.

Edmonton sports teams have been called the Eskimos since the 1900s.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Alberta’s new petrochemical grant called ‘corporate welfare’

Dale Nally, Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity, said at a press conference that financial details of the 10-year plan are still being worked out.

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The UCP Kenney government has launched another corporate welfare program – this time hoping to attract petrochemical companies to the province.

“The Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program, part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, will bring multi-billion dollar investments to petrochemical projects throughout Alberta, helping to strengthen and diversify the province’s economy and create new jobs for Albertans,” the government said in a Thursday release.

Dale Nally, Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity, said at a press conference that financial details of the 10-year plan are still being worked out.

“The current global health crisis has highlighted the importance of petrochemical manufacturing around the world. Petrochemical facilities make the building blocks required for everyday consumer and professional items like medical equipment, computers and cellphones, personal protective equipment like rubber gloves and masks, car seats and tires, and fertilizer for agriculture and home gardening,” the province said.

Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association estimates there could be a further $30 billion of private-sector investment in the province’s petrochemical sector by 2030 resulting in 90,000 jobs.

“While Alberta is already a Canadian leader in petrochemicals manufacturing, the sky is the limit for this sector’s benefits to our province. Over the last 10 years, petrochemical investment in the United States reached $250 billion, more than 10 times what was invested in Canada. With our affordable 300-year supply of natural gas, technically skilled and educated workforce, and respected innovation and research sectors, Alberta is ready to seize the opportunity to become a global destination for petrochemical manufacturing, benefiting all Albertans,” said Nally.

Nally said no grant money will be handed out until a new petro-chemical facility is up an running.

“Every project that meets the program’s criteria will receive funding once built and operational. Government will no longer pick winners and losers through a private evaluation process,” the release said.

” In the current economic climate, grants are the most effective way to attract investment. Grants allow companies to better account for the full value of the incentive provided when calculating their project’s return on investment. “

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation called the program “blank-cheque petrochemical corporate welfare.”

“We need to get the economy going again, but the answer is not to make struggling taxpayers sign a blank-cheque for another petrochemical corporate welfare program,” said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s Alberta Director.

“Premier Jason Kenney should stay focused on tax relief instead of risking tax dollars trying to play investment banker.”

The CTF obtained a leaked briefing note produced by Treasury Board and Finance officials warning former finance minister Joe Ceci about the risks associated with subsidies for the petrochemical industry, which states: “the proposed incentive program cannot be justified on economic merit alone” and “there is no guarantee that the incentive program will actually lead to additional investment.”

“Lowering business taxes to eight per cent was a much better move because it helps all businesses in all sectors and we desperately need entrepreneurs of every size and shape to create jobs for their neighbours, but the Alberta government is taking a wrong turn when it fires more tax dollars at a handpicked sector based on bureaucratically determined criteria,” said Terrazzano.

Economist Trevor Tombe was also disappointed with the announcement.

“Disappointed to see Alberta continuing its long tradition of subsidizing businesses in an attempt to “diversify”,” he tweeted.

According to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, Alberta’s chemicals sector, comprised predominantly of petrochemicals, was valued at $12.1 billion and employed about 58,400 people directly and indirectly in 2019.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Trudeau Scandal: Family paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak at WE events

Margaret Trudeau spoke at approximately 28 events and received honoraria amounting to $250,000. Alexandre spoke at eight events and received approximately $32,000, according to the CBC.

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The mother and brother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were paid thousands of dollars to speak at WE events, a charity with close ties to his family.

Margaret spoke at approximately 28 events and received honoraria amounting to $250,000. Alexandre spoke at eight events and received approximately $32,000, according to the CBC.

WE Charity has said in the past that members of the Trudeau family don’t receive fees or honoraria when they appear at WE events, CBC reported.

 Trudeau has been under fire since announcing the sole-source contract with WE Charity to administer the $900-million Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) project, because of the charity’s association with the Trudeau family.

WE announced last week they would be pulling out of the deal but Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said he would be conducting an investigation into Trudeau’s role in the deal.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement basically saying ‘think of the children.’

“The Prime Minister’s relatives engage with a variety of organization and support many personal causes on their own accord. What is important to remember here is that this is about a charity supporting students. The Canada Student Service Grant is about giving young people opportunities to contribute to their communities, not about benefits to anyone else,” The PMO statement said

Opposition members were furious about the announcement.

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves Blanchet said Trudeau must resign until the ethics commissioner has completed his investigation.

“We must recall Parliament immediately to get answers and bring accountability. The Prime Minister personally intervened to direct a billion-dollar program to a group that had paid his family almost $300k. Not in Venezuela. Not in Zimbabwe,” tweeted Tory MP Pierre Poilievre.

Tory leadership contender Erin O’Toole tweeted: “Justin Trudeau gives WE millions in taxpayer money. WE pays Trudeau’s mother $250,000 and brother $32,000. I have the experience and seat in parliament to hold the Liberals accountable. And I will end Justin Trudeau’s corruption.”

Fellow Tory candidate Peter MacKay tweeted: “It was already alarming Trudeau would give a sole source contract to implement a Covid relief program instead of using our public service. It veers into the absurd that Trudeau did not recuse himself from decisions involving an org with direct financial dealings with his family.”

Former Calgary Flame star Theo Fleury tweeted he was asked to speak at a WE event and was informed presenters don’t get paid.

Fleury tweet

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said the situation is what happens when things aren’t transparent.

“This is a bad look and this whole mess shows why transparency and competition for government contracts is so essential,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the CTF.

About 35,000 students and recent graduates have applied for the CSSG, which links them with volunteering opportunities in exchange for payments of between $1,000 and $5,000.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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