Smoke-Free Alberta asks: Why hasn’t all of the Smoking Reduction Act been enacted?

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PHOTOS: Water pipes and flavoured tobacco … Why has Alberta legislation outlawing them not been enacted? There are no secret political messages in this picture, by the way. Below: Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, NDP MLA Sandra Jansen, and Edmonton Journal Editor Mark Iype.

A letter Monday from the Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta to Health Minister Sarah Hoffman asks why the NDP Government continues to put off full implementation of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act, passed three years ago by the Progressive Conservative government of Alison Redford.

The never-enacted sections include:

  • A ban on the use of water pipes and e-cigarettes in public establishments
  • A ban on flavoured pipe and water pipe tobacco
  • Mandatory training for tobacco retailers
  • Strict new tobacco retailing sign requirements
  • Active enforcement of tobacco sales to minors

hoffmanThe letter, a copy of which was obtained by AlbertaPolitics.ca, also alleges that Alberta Health Services has cut funding to smoking reduction programs and that unnamed government officials continue to meet in private with tobacco industry lobbyists.

“We believe that these concerns can readily be addressed with your help,” the letter tells Ms. Hoffman.

Smoke-Free Alberta is made up of Action on Smoking and Health, the Alberta Public Health Association, the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention, the Alberta-N.W.T. chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the Alberta-N.W.T. branch of the Lung Association.

The letter calls for the NDP cabinet to remove a regulatory exemption to the law that allows minors to sell tobacco products, saying evidence suggests young sales people are more likely to sell tobacco illegally to other minors.

It calls cuts to AHS tobacco reduction program funding “alarming and disheartening” and argues “it is important to Albertan’s future health that this highly successful program be sustained and strengthened rather than further weakened or impaired.”

And it alleges that closed-door meetings have taken place between tobacco industry lobbyists and government officials, saying this puts Canada in contravention of a global public health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which prohibits closed-door meetings with industry representatives.

The letter provided no details of the meetings, which are potentially a problem for any government since groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have different official missions but maintain links to the tobacco industry through participation in groups such as the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco.

Ms. Hoffman’s Press Secretary, Timothy Wilson, said the government wants “Alberta to continue to be a leader in tobacco control, and we are evaluating the proposals set out in the letter.”

“The un-proclaimed items from the previous government’s legislation are just some of the issues facing the province in tobacco control,” he added.

He said also AHS has not been directed by the government to cut funding to smoking cessation programs: “AHS continues to review and adjust tobacco reduction programs to make sure they are effective and aligned with the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund, Addictions and Mental Health, and other key areas.”

As for the allegation government officials have met with tobacco industry lobbyists, Mr. Wilson said Ms. Hoffman has not met with a tobacco industry lobbyist since the election. “The Minister of Health has directed ministry staff to enforce Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control… Interaction with the industry is limited only to those meetings that are absolutely necessary to regulate the industry.”

Nine individuals are registered in Alberta as lobbyists for the tobacco or related industries.

The growing disquiet among anti-tobacco activists about the Alberta government’s failure to fully implement the Act – which could be done by Cabinet without the need to go back to the Legislature – is heightened by the fact the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa is making moves on the tobacco reduction file.

The federal Liberals said yesterday they plan to move ahead with changes to the Canadian Tobacco Act to regulate e-cigarettes and vaping products to make them less accessible to young people.

Shamed, perhaps, Tory caucus gives Sandra Jansen’s passionate oratory a standing ovation

To see members of a spurned political party leap to their feet to give a standing ovation to an MLA that had just abandoned them to join a government they despise must surely be a first in Parliamentary history.

jansenJust the same, it happened yesterday in the Alberta Legislature when Sandra Jansen, until recently a candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party and now a member of the governing NDP, rose in the Legislature to passionately denounce the hateful comments she has faced in person and on social media before and since she crossed the floor of the Legislature last week.

As all Albertans know, this kind of abuse – mostly by anonymous cowards – is standard operating procedure on social media in Alberta, almost entirely emanates from the political right.

In her first member’s statement as an NDP MLA, Ms. Jansen implored the members of the House: “Don’t ignore it. Don’t look the other way. Don’t excuse it. Because our daughters are watching us.”

When she sat down, the members of her former caucus and the Wildrose Party Opposition lumbered to their feet and thundered their applause. What can this mean? Shame? Denial? Political expedience caused by a sense of the way the wind is blowing? Or the fact that in their hearts they know she’s right?

I’ll tell you this: What Ms. Jansen had to say is worth listening to in its entirety.

Edmonton Journal changes likely to mean less local news and fewer local reporters

Strip out the cheerful marketing language and the “refocused print edition” of the Edmonton Journal announced yesterday in a short news story by Editor Mark Iype sounds an awful lot like readers will be getting less local news produced by fewer local staff members.

iypeNotwithstanding the story’s claim the changes to the paper owned by Postmedia Network Canada Corp. of Toronto “will allow us to focus our coverage more on local news both in print and online,” it seems most likely the result will be the opposite.

Putting all local reporting in a small news hole in one section of the paper and filling the rest with “the best of Postmedia content from across the country” is likely to translate into readers getting more canned drivel and less local news.

Local business and arts coverage, if any, will be packaged with other local news, the story said. Readers will get the Financial Post section of the National Post, which they clearly didn’t want when the had the opportunity to subscribe to it.

“As it does now, local sports coverage will front a section that brings together some of the finest sportswriters from across Canada,” the story also says. Translation: One or two local sports stories only, plus fewer local sports statistics.

As for the Impact section, it will continue to have local analysis stories, Mr. Iype said. But how many and how often? That question was not answered. Again, there will be lots of canned stories from Postmedia. Not much impact there!

Of course, with the emphasis on copy written elsewhere, elimination of staff as previously announced by Postmedia will be easier.

Similar changes are being implemented at Postmedia papers across the country, often accompanied by staff layoffs.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Categories Alberta Politics