For immediate release:
Apr 2, 2008

Rule of Law up in Smoke under Dalton McGuinty: Runciman

Law abiding Ontarians shoulder burden while government allows sale of illegal smokes

(Queen’s Park) Interim Opposition Leader Bob Runciman today condemned the McGuinty Liberals for not cracking down on the sale of illegal cigarettes and instead asking law abiding families to shoulder the burden with higher taxes.

“There are no taxes being collected on these cigarettes and the government is simply allowing this to happen. The government is turning a blind eye to illegal operations, some with ties to organized crime who use the profits to purchase illegal guns,” charged Runciman. “Instead of shrugging their shoulders over the loss of $600 million dollars and whacking law-abiding Ontarians with a new $60 million tire tax, the McGuinty Liberals should get to work enforcing the rule of law.”

In the Legislature today, Runciman said it is estimated that one in three cigarettes smoked in Ontario today is contraband. Police and anti-smoking groups agree that illegal cigarettes now account for 25 to 30 per cent of tobacco consumption in the province. It’s estimated that this represents $600 million in lost revenue per year.

Runciman also cited an illegal smoke shop operating on land owned by the provincial government located near a high school, as an example of the government’s complacency on the issue.

“Dalton McGuinty is standing idly by while his own government participates in a situation that is putting the health and safety of our children at risk,” said Runciman. “Our young people and all Ontarians deserve better.”

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For more information:

Michelle Pennell
(416) 325-9109

Tobacco control
Ms. Laurie Scott: To the Minister of Health Promotion. Located on Argyle Street in Caledonia on government-owned property within 1,200 metres of both a high school and an elementary school, is an illegal smoke shop. The children of Caledonia are buying tax-free cigarettes with no health warnings, without being asked for proper identification. We’re not talking about an ice cream truck parked in front of a school. It’s the sale of illegal, untested, hazardous products to the people who deserve our protection the most. As the Minister of Health Promotion in Ontario, why haven’t you shutdown this illegal smoke shack, particularly since it’s running on government property?

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Hon. Margarett R. Best: I’ll pass this question to Minister Bartolucci. Thank you.
Hon. Rick Bartolucci: I look forward to answering the question. Since October of 2003, Ontario has taken many steps to attack illegal contraband cigarette sales, including the Tobacco Tax Act. Convictions under the act have doubled between 2005 and 2007. Over the past two years, 14 million contraband cigarettes, 112,000 untaxed cigars and large quantities of fine cut tobacco have been seized by the Ministry of Revenue’s investigators and inspectors. There is still more to do and we will continue to be very, very pro-active on this issue.

Ms. Laurie Scott: I want to go back to the Minister of Health Promotion because Minister, this outrageous situation falls directly within your ministry which spends millions of advertising dollars preaching against the evils of smoking, particularly to young children. There are illegal cigarette being sold on government property to children within a stone’s throw of their school. What answers do you have for the parents of the school children in Caledonia who see this government just sitting back? It facilitates the ability of cigarettes to young children just down the street from their school. Are you telling us the health and well-being of our children, and the children of Caledonia in this particular instance, don’t hold the highest priority of this government?

Hon. Rick Bartolucci: I think this government is telling her exactly the opposite. I am very, very proud of our smoke-free Ontario legislation. Reducing the demand for tobacco is crucial. I’m very pleased to learn from my colleague Minister Best, that tobacco consumption in Ontario fell by 31.8% from 2003 to 2006. That equals over $4.6 billion less cigarettes. So when the member asks are we not committed to reducing people using tobacco, I say no we’re very, very committed. We only wish that more of you on the other side supported that legislation.