Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Have a puff on this

Ontario health minister George Smitherman thinks it's time for a "discussion" on whether the province should ban smoking in apartment buildings — or, both more and less precisely at the same time, "some" apartment buildings. But what is there to discuss? Either his government is committed to curbing "the deadly effects of second-hand smoke in highrises," or it is not. There is certainly no point discussing the propriety of political intervention in private property or contractual agreements between private interests — that debate was ceded long ago in favour of politics, even if only by the politicians themselves. Just to start off the list, we have smoking bans in bars, right? Complaints based on the merits of private property rights cannot be upheld by precedent — precedent establishes quite the opposite, that property is private only to the extent that politics will allow it.

So Mr. Smitherman is only pandering to vestigial antiquated sensitivities when he says that "while … he would rather see market forces drive landlords to declare their buildings smoke-free, he acknowledged it would be worth having the discussion about whether legislation would be necessary to back up any ban." Mr. Smitherman is the health minister for goodness sake! The entire pretext and operation of his principality is the legislated interference in private matters — there is little that could objectively be considered more private than health. Shrinking affectations do not therefore become Mr. Smitherman. After all, neither he nor the politicians in his government will have to bear any costs or burdens for a regulated ban.

"We've got to look at it from a regulatory standpoint," he said. "We sure will do that. There will be a good discussion. But there is a lot of power in the hands of the people."
Ah, that's more like it — there are costs and burdens for politicians after all, otherwise known as votes, although for the politicians there are opportunities as well, even if not so much for the voters. Mr. Smitherman is putting out a feeler for the electoral costs and opportunities of a proposed smoking ban. These will not turn out to be significant for the parties directly affected — renters are not typically hardened enough rent-seekers at the polling booth to make any great difference to the governing party's fortunes, while highrise landlords have bigger regulatory fishes to fry with the government than what for them would be only a matter of inconvenience. Meanwhile, talking the "market forces" talk suggests a congenial willingness to compromise — even if he must manufacture the problem to be compromised in the first place, and even if there is no compromise to be had. The health minister expects instead that even mouthing the proposal will burnish his already formidable progressive credentials among that group of voters susceptible to those kinds of blandishments, and placate co-operative "health" lobby groups. It's not any great big deal to Mr. Smitherman, but he knows at the same time that there is no cost in suggesting it. It won't happen soon, but down the road… Oh, and those private property rights can just continue to go to hell.

8 comments:

Jake said...

More complacency to the anti-smoking lobby is the last thing Ontario needs. Now they want to to evict people who are using a legal product within the confines of their residence. Literally, Slitherman and his anti-smoking gestapo can go fuck themselves raw.

The once prosperous tobacco industry in this region is basically toast because of McGuinty's pandering to these anti-smoking crusaders. The unemployment rates in the tobacco belt are in the double digits.

While all this is happening, he refuses to offer a bailout to the people whose livelihoods have been fucked over by his legislation. These folks have literally have gone from earning a good living to collecting a welfare cheque in just four years.

Seriously, I hope they all get in their tractors and completely block access to Queens Park and hold a standoff like Caledonia. If McGuinty can bribe the natives for what they are doing there, then there is no reason why he can't do the same for the tobacco farmers.

libby van dyke said...

What gives Slitherman the right to outlaw French kissing after fellatio in a highrise?

Honey Pot said...

It will be a good day when the next provinical election happens. To see the ass end of the liberals getting booted out the door will be a wonderful sight to behold.

Tom said...

I have no love for these Liberals, and none for McGuinty. However, a closer read of the article, and we find McGuinty does not support this. Maybe if the conservatives get in next time, THEY will be the ones to implement this new regulation. Liberals.... Conservatives... two names for basically the same thing. What flavour of shit would you prefer?

MapMaster said...

McGuinty and Smitherman: good cop, bad cop?

Tom's right, there's no essential difference between the Liberals and the PCs, except possibly that the PCs are a little lazier in regulatory prowess (or so I can hope).

Tom said...

I don't know... We're not talking Mike Harris anymore. These Conservatives are impatient with the Liberals for taking too long to ban incandescent light bulbs. The ones who were there that day voted to support Milloy's proposal to change the Highway trafic act to force adults to wear helmets while riding bicycles.

rhebner said...

Is the next logical step to ban smoking in any private residence where there children under the age of 18. After all, the 'people' have a responsibility to the welfare of our most vulnerable members.

I don't buy the 'tobacco farmers are going belly up' argument that I think Jake is making. Southwestern Ontario has one of the best climates and best soil conditions in Canada, well suited to most any crop. I'm sure its not easy to go from being a tobacco farmer to a corn farmer, but in the long run it'll be more profitable. Smoking rates have been declining for a number of decades now.

Jake said...

rhebner,

You cannot just simply convert tobacco farms to corn fields. The soil in the Tobacco Belt is far too sandy and has few nitrates for corn to grow. The only thing that can grow well on tobacco fields are plants that require a low nitrate content such as legumes.

Also, the price and yield of corn is ridiculously low compared to tobacco. There is a glut of corn on the world commodity market. The reason for this is that the US hands out huge subsidies for the corn industry and has led to an artificially low price for corn.

As a person who has worked in the tobacco industry, its easy to hear simple solutions from people who have no idea how complex it really is.