Epistles of Thomas

December 8, 2017

Alcohol, Gambling, the Big Numb and Big Money

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 19:18
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CBC seems to be running a series this week on our governments’ reliance on sin taxes to balance their budgets. Neil Macdonald kicks things off with an opinion piece: “Want to save a ton of money? Try Pigovian tax avoidance.” My dad always called them sin taxes but I suppose Pigovian Tax sounds more academic and less judgemental. There is also a subtle distinction in meaning as you’ll see if you read the links.

Next we have a series of articles by Clare Hennig explaining the damage that alcohol addiction is causing in British Columbia. There’s Wasted lives: The cost of alcohol addiction and Wasted lives: Overcoming alcohol addiction, surviving the holiday season.

In addition I think we should add gambling which provides massive revenue to Canadian governments at all levels. CBC’s Fifth Estate had another article on the problem that casinos are not stopping people from gambling even after they sign up to be excluded from casinos. A takeaway: “The OLG [Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation] brought in more than $7 billion dollars in gross revenue last year — $2.2 billion of that went straight into government coffers.”

It used to be that prohibition sought to eliminate the problems caused by alcoholism and gambling. Now government budgets are dependent on “sin taxes” and gambling proceeds to balance. Now instead of serving the people by protecting them from themselves in some paternal fashion they spend millions advertising these very vices in hopes of increasing the revenue base. I’m not sure a day goes by without my seeing advertising for Lotto 6/49 or Max. I suppose making cigarettes less popular has meant that revenue must be increased elsewhere. Macdonald also points out that the liquor control propagation boards are endlessly flogging special wines, etc. in an attempt to boost sales and profits.

So where are we going with Marijuana in Canada? We’ve seen that government can’t be left in control of controlling alcohol or gambling. Why should we think that they will do any different once marijuana becomes legal? It won’t be enough to merely have it available for sale – they’ll have to ensure that it sells well and that they provide enough variety for every consumer and that it’s available in more locations, such as the local Safeway which now has a large wine collection. Hmmm.


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