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Ford and Tory: A Bait and Switch

Decision to Gerrymander Council Obscuring Billions in Privatization and Attempted Council Giveaways

Ford and Tory: A Bait and Switch

Two major policy decisions stand to be completely obscured by Conservative Premier Doug Ford’s latest machinations at City Hall.

On Thursday, the Toronto Star's Robert Benzie published a proposal by Premier Ford to slash the number of City councillors in half, even while the the City election is already underway and the deadline for councillor candidate registration was less than 24 hours away. 

Chaos ensued. All councillor candidates had their campaigns thrown into disarray.  Large protests erupted at City Hall while fiery exchanges between the mayor and councillors made headlines.

 

 

Strangely, many of Tory’s executive did not vote to make the matter an emergency item, while it was revealed that the mayor already had some forewarning of the plans in discussions with the Premier. 

While politicians, the media and most of the public focused on Ford’s attempt to gerrymander Toronto’s council, almost no attention was paid to two other decisions taken - both involving billions of dollars.

Cannabis Retail Privatized

At almost the exact same time as the Toronto Star release about City Council, Vice News released details of Ford’s plan to privatize Ontario’s cannabis sales.

While “the province will still oversee the wholesale distribution of the product and online sales", the Ontario’s LCBO (the state-owned alcohol retail monopoly) will now no longer have “exclusive rights over retail sales.”

The decision could affect billions of dollars of lost government revenues while other concerns are now developing over whether the Conservatives will allow total private retail or state-managed privatization that would give favour to specific companies.

Jack Lloyd, a prominent cannabis lawyer, is “concerned that the government will only license chains like Shoppers Drug Mart and Sobeys," according to Vice.

“There’s a chance that it just goes to big business whose operational demands mean that they can’t satisfy the market,” he told Vice.

While legalization of Cannabis is often portrayed in terms of government policy, the reality is that there are billions of dollars at stake in a new emerging international market.  The legalization of cannabis in some US states is leading to a stampede of global investment by major corporations looking to strengthen global positions in agriculture production, distribution, retail and ancillary products like paraphernalia.   

Indigenous communities trying to bolster their economies via cannabis production could also be heavily affected.

What’s happening behind the scenes right now in regards to agriculture, retail and distribution could make many people very rich. Well connected politicians and former police staffers like Joe Oliver and former police chief Julian Fantino, who strongly pushed for jailing people (predominantly black and indigenous people) for cannabis use and distribution are now attempting to get rich via legalization.

A Billion-Dollar City Giveaway

While the cannabis privatization scheme is mostly falling under the radar in comparison to the gerrymandering issues at the City, they’ve at least been covered in the press - notably CBC and Vice.

The same can’t be said for an attempt at council to give away billions to developers.

On the same day that Ford’s plans for cannabis and City council were leaked, City council had a vote that could have gifted anywhere from hundreds of millions to billions to developers - for no reason whatsoever it seems.

 

 

The vote, which would have given millions to a number of development projects, was part of an incentive program to encourage development.  

The only problem is that according to City Staff reports, a number of the projects were going to be developed anyways, causing many observers to speculate that it was simply a brazen giveaway of public money to billionaire development corporations.

 

 

The councillor who moved the motion (Michael Thompson) was just last month accused of having a too-cozy relationship with developers by Toronto's integrity commissioner.

The vote failed on a tie - with the Mayor voting in favour. 

 

 

The giveaway of either billions or hundreds of millions in tax-payer money comes on the heels of a major health, housing and homelessness crisis in the City. Advocates have had to scrape and claw to get the City to allocate small amounts of money for shelters, safe-injection sites and affordable housing development.   

Not a single major media outlet reported on the vote.  

 


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