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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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NDP MLA under fire for mocking death of British PM Margaret Thatcher

“The only thing I regret about Margaret Thatcher’s death is that it happened probably 30 years too late,” said Marlin Schmidt

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An Edmonton NDP MLA is being slammed for mocking the death of the Iron Lady – former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“I can still go on to enjoy the fact that Margaret Thatcher is dead. The only thing I regret about Margaret Thatcher’s death is that it happened probably 30 years too late,” said Marlin Schmidt, MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar, in the Legislature Wednesday afternoon.

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Thatcher is known around the world as a conservative icon.

Schmidt’s comments drew the ire of former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

“Keepin’ it classy. @abndpcaucus” Wall tweeted.

Thatcher served as British PM from 1979 to 1990. She was the first woman to hold the position.

A Soviet journalist dubbed her the “Iron Lady.”

Thatcher was also credited with crushing the powerful British union movement and being in charge when Britain defeated Argentina in a war over the Falkland Islands.

Thatcher died in 2013, at the age of 87, after suffering a stroke.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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UCP bill will allow private sale of blood

Tany Yao, UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, has brought forward Bill 204 that will repeal Alberta’s ban on the private purchase of human blood.

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The UCP is about to repeal a law in Alberta that bans the private sale of blood.

Tany Yao, UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, has brought forward Bill 204 that will repeal Alberta’s ban on the private purchase of human blood.

In 2017, the NDP passed the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, which banned everyone except for the Canadian Blood Services from paying for plasma and other blood products.

“A secure supply of plasma is a cornerstone of a modern twenty-first century health care system. The repeal of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act will help patients by making our plasma supply less dependent on international supply which can be unreliable,” Yao said.

Bill advocate Whitney Goulstone, Executive Director Canadian Immunodeficiencies Patient Organization (CIPO), noted last summer Canada experienced its first IG (Immune Globulin) shortage.

Kate van der Meer, said the bill, if it becomes law, will make her life easier.

“I was originally scheduled to switch to SCIG (Subcutaneous Immune Globulin) in May 2019. Due to the shortage, this did not happen. Instead, I had to continue traveling to the hospital every 3 weeks, and struggle to care for my 3 young children while recovering from each intravenous infusion. This continued until the end of September 2019 when the shortage eased and Canadian Blood Services began allowing patients to switch to SCIG again,” she said, in a statement in the government press release.

“Patients have suffered because of our apathy, and because of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act.”

Canada as a whole only supplies 13.5 per cent of the plasma needed for the production of the IG and other plasma therapies used for the treatment of Canadian patients.

The NDP is on the record as opposing the new bill.

“If passed, this bill will divert donations away from Canadian Blood Services to private buyers, who can then sell them to the highest bidder on world markets,” said NDP Health Critic David Shepherd.

“This is very bad for Albertans. It flies directly in the face of the Krever Inquiry.”

 The Krever Inquiry investigated Canada’s tainted blood scandal, in which tens of thousands of people were infected with hepatitis C or HIV through tainted blood products.

The inquiry’s report led to the creation of a single national agency, Canadian Blood Services. 

Ontario, Quebec and B.C. also have legislated bans on the purchase of human blood. Manitoba has a single paid-donation centre for rare blood types that predates the Krever Inquiry.

Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have private blood purchasing locations. 

Shepherd said: “This isn’t a partisan issue – our single public voluntary system has served Albertans well for decades, and through this global pandemic.  Allowing private buyers to divert donations away from Canadian Blood Services will cause terrible harm to Canada’s supply. Tany Yao’s bill is a terrible mistake, and I hope members of the UCP caucus will join us in defeating it.”

Peter Martin Jaworski, Ph.D., an Associate Teaching Professor in Strategy, Ethics, Economics and Public Policy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has made the case for allowing blood products to be sold.

“In order to meet the demands of patients, every country has come to rely increasingly on plasma from the United States, one of the few countries that permits some form of payment for plasma. The United
States is responsible for 70% of the global supply of plasma. Along with the other countries that permit a form of payment for plasma donations (including Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Czechia), they
together account for nearly 90% of the total supply,” he wrote in a paper called Bloody Well Pay Them.

“This situation is unsustainable, a risk to security, and, most importantly, a threat to the millions of patients who currently depend on plasma therapies, those who will in future, and those who would benefit from them but do not have access.

“In order to ensure a safe, secure, and sufficient supply of plasma therapies, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia should withdraw prohibitions on voluntary remunerated plasma collections, and thereby ensure domestic security of supply for our patients, and begin to contribute to the global supply of plasma.”

David Clement, Toronto-based North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said “We applaud the Government of Alberta and MLA Tany Yao for putting this forward. A ban on paid blood plasma was ridiculous to begin with, especially considering that 70 per cent of Canada’s blood plasma supply comes from the USA, where they compensate donors.

“Blood plasma is used for a variety of medical treatments, and plays and important role in the fight against Covid-19. Our hope is that by allowing for compensation, more Albertans will donate blood plasma and help the province overcome the persistent shortages that occur. Czechia (previously the Czech Republic) legalized paying for blood plasma, and saw a 7 fold increase in donations. If that were to happen in Alberta it would be cause for celebration, not condemnation.” said Clement.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Canada now $1,200,000,000,000 in debt

The projected debt will be $1.2 trillion by March 2021, up from $765 billion a year earlier.

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Wednesday a deficit of $343 billion this fiscal year – taking Canada’s debt to more than $1.2 trillion.

In a what he called a “fiscal snapshot”, Morneau said spending from the COVID-19 outbreak was to blame for the massive deficit.

The projected debt will be $1.2 trillion by March 2021, up from $765 billion a year earlier.

Before the pandemic hit, the federal deficit was pegged about $34.4 billion.

“Some will criticize us on the cost of action,” Morneau said in the House of Commons. 

“But our government knew that the cost of inaction would’ve been far greater.

“Those who would have us do less ignore that, without government action, millions of jobs would have been lost, putting the burden of debt onto families and jeopardizing Canada’s resilience.”

Much of the higher deficit comes from higher than projected spending under Ottawa’s two key COVID-19 financial aid programs, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The snapshot shows that GDP will shrink by projected 6.8% this year — worst since the Great Depression. But the economy is expected to bounce back by 5.5% next year.

One of the reason the deficit is so much higher is the government predicting the amount of money it takes in will drop substantially.

Personal income taxes are projected to dip by 30 per cent and corporate taxes will be 11 per cent lower.

The national unemployment rate hit almost 14 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 but is expected that rate to return to levels closer to the pre-pandemic era — roughly 7 per cent — by the end of 2021.

“The reality is we’ve witnessed an unprecedented shock to our system,” Morneau told reporters.

“With a crisis of this magnitude, someone was going to have to shoulder the costs and the federal government was uniquely placed to take this responsibility on. We took on this role because it was the right thing to do.”

Tory leader Andrew Scheer called Morneau’s fiscal update a “dire picture of Canada’s finances.”

“The prime minister’s track record proves that he cannot be trusted to lead Canada through the recovery,” he said.

Scheer said Canada is the only G7 country that has had its credit rating cut during the pandemic and Canada has the highest unemployment rate among the group of developed nations.

“That should be a real wake-up call for this government.”

Canadian Taxpayers Federation Federal Director Aaron Wudrick said the news should alarm Ottawa.

“Unfortunately, Ottawa doesn’t seem to have a plan to manage this deep dive into debt. For all the specifics he provided today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau may as well have posted a picture on Instagram,” Wudrick said.

“Pandemic-related spending has caused the deficit to balloon by more than one thousand per cent in just four months. Much of this spending was intended to temporarily address the COVID-19 crisis, but these programs are extremely expensive and unsustainable. Minister Morneau needs to lay out a plan to turn off the taps, but he failed to do that.

“In particular, it is clear that the government must either end or significantly reform the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which creates a strong unintended incentive for people to stay out of the workforce. 

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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