Provincial governments not jumping to act on tighter alcohol warning guidelines
By Michael Tutton in Halifax
Politicians in charge of provincial and territorial liquor laws aren’t hurrying to adopt or promote newly updated guidelines that advise a steep drop in Canadian drinking habits.
Across Canada, the responsible ministers declined interview requests from The Canadian Press. In written responses, they didn’t commit to changing marketing methods for alcohol and noted they’re awaiting Ottawa’s lead on whether to slap warning labels on products.
In some cases, such as Nunavut and British Columbia, governments say they’re actively reviewing the guidelines. Two provinces — New Brunswick and Nova Scotia — as well as the Northwest Territories said their health departments are developing plans to incorporate the new advice. The Northwest Territories Health Department said it intends to “share the new guidelines broadly.”
The guidance prepared by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction for Health Canada and released on Jan. 17 represents a major shift from its 2011 advice that having two drinks a day was considered low risk. The updated report says there is a moderate risk of harm for those who consume between three and six standard drinks a week, and it increases for every additional drink.
Kevin Shield, a professor at University of Toronto’s school of public health, notes about two-thirds of Canadians who drink are consuming in the guideline’s riskier ranges, according to the most recent Statistics Canada survey.
Shield — who studies methods used by governments to reduce harms caused by alcohol — said in an interview Wednesday that liquor agencies aren’t currently giving consumers a good sense of the long-term health risks of alcohol. The typical messages, he said, are: “Don’t drink and drive, don’t drink while pregnant and please enjoy responsibly,” with only the Northwest Territories including labels warning of health impacts.
Some governments have been loosening marketing restrictions. For example, in its 2019 budget, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives called for earlier serving hours for bars and restaurants, alcohol in municipal parks and advertising of free alcohol by casinos.
The province’s Finance Department said in an emailed response it’s “aware” of the CCSA update but didn’t comment on whether the province’s liquor corporation, the LCBO, will alter its policies. The LCBO website contains a link to the updated guidelines, but finding it requires surfing through three other topics before reaching a link written in small type at the bottom of a page.
Tim Stockwell, the former head of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, said the reality is the issue isn’t a political priority.
“They’re thinking about the economy, and tourism and the vitality of nightlife in their cities. The last thing on policymakers’ minds is whether this commodity we’re so familiar with is doing any harm,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
The liquor corporations continue to be key sources of revenue to their provinces, with the B.C. agency providing close to $1.2 billion in the last fiscal year, Ontario’s LCBO providing about $2.4 billion and Quebec’s SAQ reporting a $1.35-billion profit.
A spokesman for Quebec’s finance minister said the province isn’t considering any changes to the provincial liquor corporation’s current practices. “We trust citizens to make the best decisions for their health, in light of the latest knowledge on the subject,” spokeswoman Claudia Loupret said.
In Nova Scotia, Finance Minister Allan MacMaster said liquor education materials “do not yet” reflect the new guidance. Beverley Ware, a spokeswoman for the province’s liquor corporation, said the Department of Health “plans to develop materials to inform Nova Scotians of the new guidance on alcohol and health,” and the liquor retailer is in favour of sharing this information with its customers.
A spokesman for New Brunswick’s Health Department said it supports the updated guidelines and is working on a communication plan to help New Brunswickers understand them.
Siobhan Coady, the finance minister in Newfoundland and Labrador, provided an email saying her officials are “always mindful of new research,” noting the province was already examining whether to introduce policies that limit liquor consumption — including raising the minimum price for drinks sold in bars.
Manitoba’s government didn’t comment on how it will incorporate the guidelines into its liquor marketing, but noted its liquor corporation has a “DrinkSense” website that encourages responsible consumption.
Meanwhile, none of the provinces reached by The Canadian Press indicated they are considering directly implementing the call for health warning labels, though the Northwest Territories does already have a label mentioning the risk to pregnant women and drivers, and noting alcohol “may cause health problems.”
Nunavut’s Finance Department said in an email it is reviewing its alcohol regulations, including possible warning label requirements, and will “note the findings” of the CCSA in its review.
David Morris, a spokesman for the Saskatchewan liquor authority, said the province’s retail liquor system will be fully private later this year and there are no plans to change the way private retailers in the province sell or market alcoholic beverages.
A spokesperson for British Columbia’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said the province will be reviewing the CCSA guidelines and “have more to say in the weeks ahead.”
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Yukon said it’s up to Ottawa to take the lead on creating warning labels that discuss the risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions, was unavailable for an interview, and her office said she’s reviewing the CCSA’s advice.
Dan Malleck, a professor of health sciences at Brock University who has been critical of the CCSA guidelines, said the provinces are right to be reluctant about adopting the updated guidelines. “I think any reasonable government should ignore the guidelines completely,” he said in an email. “It’s poor research, ideologically driven, and based upon spurious connections with health harms.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.
— With files from Allison Jones, Steve Lambert, Terri Theodore, Kelly Malone, Colette Derworiz, Hina Alam, Sidhartha Banerjee and Emily Blake.
Budget 2023 gives boost to dental care, green economy while searching for savings
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
By Mia Rabson in Ottawa
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s 2023 federal budget promises “transformative investments” in Canada’s green economy as the country tries to maintain its place in the global clean tech revolution and realign its supply chains toward allies who won’t use energy as a political weapon.
“Together these two great shifts represent the most significant opportunity for Canadian workers in the lifetime of anyone here today,” Freeland said Tuesday in the House of Commons.
She is also using the budget to provide another top-up of the GST rebate, styled this time as a grocery rebate, to low-income Canadians who are feeling the pinch of inflation and keep making good on pledges in the confidence-and-supply agreement with the New Democrats.
There are also some measures reacting to political fires that have been burning around the Liberals in recent weeks and months, including some money to combat foreign interference, and to make airport security screening better.
In all the 2023-24 spending plan will cost $490.5 billion, including public debt charges, with $8.3 billion in new program spending. The projected deficit is $40.1 billion, which is greater than the $30.6 billion deficit for this coming fiscal year forecast in November’s fiscal update.
Over the next five years the government expects to spend $59.5 billion more than before. Nearly half of that will go to increase health transfers to the provinces and territories and further expand the national dental-care program the Liberals are creating as part of their deal with the NDP.
Dental care is expected to cost more than $13 billion over the next five years, about a $7-billion increase from what the government said it would cost when it was introduced in last year’s budget. It is now expected to cost $4.4 billion per year to keep it going beyond that.
Dental care was one of the NDP’s top demands from the Liberals when the opposition party entered into a confidence-and-supply agreement in March 2022 to back the minority government on key confidence votes, such as budgets, through to 2025.
“I’m really proud that we were able to force this government to expand dental care,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said after the budget was tabled.
Singh said that while he is disappointed the budget lacks new measures to help make housing more affordable, his party will still vote for it. That will give the Liberals enough votes to pass the budget and continue governing.
The budget addresses a number of other NDP asks outlined in the deal, including anti-scab legislation and a new forum to better address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre dismissed the budget as a high-spending plan that will drive up the deficit, make inflation worse, and subsidize major multinational companies. His party will not be voting for it, he said.
“Today’s budget by the costly coalition of the NDP and Liberals is a full-frontal attack on the paycheques of hard working Canadians,” he said.
More than one-third of new spending is wrapped up in Canada’s targeted response to keep pace with the United States Inflation Reduction Act, which last year promised to direct US$370 billion at clean technology and electric vehicles over a decade.
Over the next 12 years, Canada expects to spend more than $80 billion on investment tax credits to spur development of clean electricity, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage systems, critical minerals, and the electric-vehicle supply chain.
The budget warns of the ramifications of not investing in the low-carbon economy, with significant hits to the GDP and jobs in the next 30 years, even as it acknowledges the enormous amount of money it’s going to take.
“The scale of the required investment is massive,” the budget said.
Almost one-third of the investment tax credits will be for clean power, including finally aiming to connect Canada from coast to coast with power lines.
Hidden somewhere in the budget figures is the money Canada has promised that helped lure major auto companies to build battery plants in Ontario, including Volkswagen and Stellantis. The details of those are expected to be made public in the next few weeks.
All of the plans are looking to develop the new industries with supply chains connected to allies like the U.S. and Europe. Freeland said in her speech that this would help to end what Ursula Von Der Leyen, president of the European Commission has called Europe’s “dangerous dependencies” on authoritarian economies.
That includes Russia, which has used its oil and gas exports as a political lever in Europe, and China, which is dominating the electric vehicle and battery supply chain sectors.
Not quite one-tenth of the new spending is directed at making life a bit more affordable for some Canadians, including the second GST rebate top-to low-income Canadians up in a year, and increases to grants for post-secondary students.
While inflation is coming down, the budget predicts it will remain above the Bank of Canada’s two per cent target until at least the second quarter of 2024. Food prices are a key part of what is keeping it elevated.
“We all know that our most vulnerable friends and neighbours are still feeling the bite of higher prices,” Freeland said in her speech.
All the new spending, and a $17-billion increase in the cost of interest on government debt over five years, has eliminated Freeland’s hope for a balanced budget on the horizon.
In November, she forecast a $4.5 billion surplus by 2027-28. Tuesday’s budget says that year will now log a $14 billion deficit.
She is promising to find $15 billion in savings over five years by scaling back government travel, its use of outside consultants and asking most federal departments to cut their spending three per cent.
Freeland uses positive language to describe Canada’s current economic situation, but the budget makes clear the upheaval created by the pandemic means the country is still at risk of seeing its finances take a turn for the worse by the end of this year.
Mostafa Askari, the chief economist at the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, said his first takeaway from the budget was simple.
“There is a lot of spending,” he said.
He is wary of the government being able to find $15 billion in savings, particularly given that the promises are vague, with no specific understanding of what money will not be spent.
“Every government, every budget has had some efficiency game,” said Askari. “It’s very unlikely they’re going to get these savings.”
Askari also said there are significant risks of a deeper economic downturn later this year than predicted in the budget, which could upend all of Freeland’s economic assumptions, lowering government revenues and making the deficit even bigger.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.
Budget 2023: What you missed, from phone chargers and concert fees to air travel
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland arrive to deliver the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
By Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa
For Canadians fed up with chargers that don’t fit their cellphones, hidden fees, air-travel disruptions and cosmetic testing on animals, the Liberal government says help is on the way.
Those and others are among the countless measures contained in the federal budget plan unveiled by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Here are some of the less-prominent promises being made:
Common chargers: Tired of trying to find the right charger for your phone? Noting the European Union recently mandated USB-C charging ports for all small handheld devices and laptops by 2024, the government says it will work with international partners and industry to develop a common standard for Canada. It claims the move will save Canadians money and reduce electronic waste. It is also promising to introduce a “targeted framework” for home appliances and electronics in 2024 to make it easier for Canadians to get such items repaired rather than having to replace them.
Right to repair: The budget says the government will work to create a framework outlining a right to repair home appliances and electronics sometime next year.
Fees and loans: The government says it will amend the Competition Act to better protect Canadians from hidden fees such as excessive baggage charges, roaming fees and added costs when buying things like concert tickets. It also promises to reduce the amount of interest lenders are allowed to charge to crack down on predatory loans, limiting the rate to 35 per cent annually. It also says it has secured commitments from Visa and Mastercard to lower their fees for small businesses, with details to come.
Air travel: Following months of complaints and horror stories from frustrated air travellers, the government says it is taking action. The budget promises $1.8 billion over five years to improve airport operations and passenger screening, and to address a backlog of complaints to the Canadian Transportation Agency. It is also proposing to strengthen the rules around compensation for Canadians whose travel plans are disrupted, and to give the CTA more authority to resolve passenger complaints.
Montreal infrastructure: The government says it plans to spend $587 million on redeveloping the Bonaventure Expressway and maintaining infrastructure held by Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated in Montreal.
Floods: Canadians are seeing more and stronger natural disasters, including devastating floods. In response, the government is setting aside $31.7 million over three years to start work on what it calls a “low-cost flood insurance program” for high-risk households without adequate insurance. It is also promising $15.3 million over three years for an online portal so Canadians can determine their flood risk, and $48.1 million over five years to identify high-risk flood areas and improve the program used by provinces and territories to recoup the cost of natural-disaster response.
Help for asylum seekers: Buried in the budget document is $999 million in spending for the coming fiscal year on temporary lodgings and health-care support for asylum claimants.
Leave for pregnancy loss: The budget says the government intends to make Canada Labour Code amendments that would create a stand-alone leave for workers in federally regulated sectors who suffer a pregnancy loss.
Farmers: The budget sets aside $34.1 million over three years to support the adoption of nitrogen management practices for Eastern Canadian farmers. The government notes that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to higher fertilizer prices, and that the money will help farmers optimize its use.
Space: Canada’s space program is getting a boost, with $1.1 billion over 14 years for the country’s participation in the International Space Station for the rest of the decade. Ottawa is also earmarking $1.2 billion over 13 years to develop and build a vehicle for astronauts to use when humanity returns to the moon with the Artemis 2 mission – a mission that will include a Canadian.
Protecting animals: They may not vote, but the federal government is nonetheless setting aside $151.9 million over three years to protect endangered whales and their habitats, and $184 million over three years for other species at risk. It is also promising to ban cosmetic testing on animals, and implement a ban on the sale of cosmetics that rely on animals to prove they are safe.
Fitness: The budgets earmarks $10 million over the next two years to fund ParticipACTION’s Let’s Get Moving initiative, which promotes daily exercise.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.
Disability Chat with Shawna Randolph : Can words degrade disability ?
$3.6 million in meth seized by Border Enforcement Team at Courts crossing
Alberta’s environmental leaders recognized
Police investigating how shooter got firearm after autopsy and balistic analysis
Pentagon: Budget readies US for possible China confrontation
Search of four Edmonton homes results in Cocaine and Meth bust
Premier Smith urges PM Trudeau to talk Ethical Energy Security in meeting with US President Biden
Top Story CP2 days ago
Provincial police officer killed during attempted arrest northeast of Montreal
Business2 days ago
Unprecedented construction needed in B.C. to offset record immigration: Report
Top Story CP1 day ago
NewsAlert: $491B budget invests in clean electricity, health care
Top Story CP1 day ago
Federal budget 2023 includes $59.5 billion in new spending, looks to increase revenue
Opinion2 days ago
Disability Chat with Sean Burke: “Thank you, sir”
Alberta2 days ago
Oilers hold off Coyotes 5-4; McDavid reaches 140 points
Crime2 days ago
What we know about the Covenant school shooting in Nashville
Business2 days ago
Bankman-Fried charged with paying $40M bribe to China