On important policy matters, the federal government should not only be using evidence on which to base its decisions, it must ensure everyone is consulted.
This summer, the Canadian government asked the public a question that may have wider ramifications than it may first appear. In a short period of just three months, Canadians should have been able to get all the facts on both sides of the plain packaging for cigarettes argument and make their opinions known. But did they?
It turns out that this debate, one that will not just affect the 18 per cent of the population who smoke, has been absent. At present, only 9% of Canadians1 understand what this consultation was about, which left the majority of the public in the dark, and more importantly, without a voice.
When a political party campaigns with a specific focus on acting democratically, and is then elected because of it, there is a sense of disbelief when that party disregards those principles.
The federal government is discounting the views of the tobacco industry in its consultation on branding bans and will only listen to anti-tobacco campaign groups – many of whom are funded by the government themselves2.
While tobacco companies are making their points clear, the Canadian health minister told reporters in May 2016, that the industry is making its opinions “widely known” among MPs, yet she stressed the government will not be changing its mind on its plan. This is not a consultation. The federal government is, at best, merely seeking validation of its proposed policy.
“There’s no question about whether we are going to proceed with plain packaging regulations,” the minister said3.
It seems the government is interested in what people have to say as long as it is in agreement with their own views. This is hardly a balanced debate.
Tell the government what you think by emailing your MP.
1Forum Research. (2016). Survey of 2,301 Canadians, including 289 regular smokers. Survey carried out August 2016.
2Wosnick, M. Dr. (2012). Cancer Research Funding in Canada: Some FAQs. Available here: Click to view Last accessed 8 August 2016
3Woods, A. (2016). Ottawa will force tobacco companies to use plain packaging, says Jane Philpott. The Star. Available at: Click to view URL accessed 25/07/16