The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union represents more than 300 Canadians working in the tobacco industry. Each and every one of these people could be directly affected by the proposed plain packaging for tobacco products policy. In this open letter to their federal representatives, they voice their concerns.
Read the letter below.
Dear Members of Parliament,
As the federal government currently considers plain packaging for tobacco products in Canada we, the unions representing more than 300 employees in this industry in Quebec, felt obligated to write to our federal representatives to voice our concerns.
This government ran on a platform of evidence-based decision making, a promise that we saw as a new and more consultative process to policy development in Canada. Unfortunately, this process has been in direct opposition to that commitment and very concerning to us and those voters who we represent.
Canadians believed that ‘evidence based’ meant that research and facts would be considered before moving forward with any policies that affect our lives, that a comprehensive cost benefit analysis would be reviewed by government officials before decisions were made. Disturbingly, this is not how this process is unfolding. Reliable evidence regarding plain packaging was noticeably absent from the consultation process, specifically the facts surrounding the potential economic and social consequences that are of serious concern to us.
We represent more than 300 employees in the tobacco industry in Montreal and Quebec City. Not only could their jobs be affected by such a policy, but these constituencies and their communities were not directly engaged by government officials during the consultation process. Already almost 20% of the Canadian tobacco market is illegal which takes away jobs from unionized and non-unionized workers in Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimate that 175 criminal gangs are involved in the sale of illegal tobacco in Canada and these unregulated, untested cigarettes are sold at one-tenth the price of legitimate product. This allows minors easy access to tobacco and it robs the government of an estimated $1.6 billion in tax revenue each year.
In Australia, the only jurisdiction to have plain packaging in place for almost four years, government data shows that it had no impact on further reducing smoking rates and illegal sales increased by 21%. If the same happens in Canada, our illegal tobacco problem will get worse and Canadian jobs in the legal industry will be negatively impacted.
It is important that all Members of Parliament know and understand the severity of the consequences and we are calling on our federal representatives to advocate for and support an open, fair and robust public hearing process into the proposed plain packaging policy.
Only a public hearing will ensure Canadians and our decision makers are made aware of and are given the time to truly examine the consequences of such a policy and ensure it won’t negatively affect Canadians.
Locals 235T and 261T of The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union