Harper government fails to deliver on promises; Gets 'F' on response to illegal cigarettes

Contraband tobacco smuggling remains a booming business across Canada

OTTAWA, Jan. 19 /CNW/ - The 175 organized crime groups behind the trade in illegal cigarettes in Canada can rest easy - the weak response by the federal government to contraband tobacco means their business will likely keep booming.   That's the conclusion of a new report issued by the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT), which released its second scorecard on the track record of the Harper government. 

Overall the Harper government received a grade of 'F', for failing to make any real progress' in solving the contraband tobacco problem.

NCACT members including the Customs and Immigration Union and the Fédération des Chambres de Commerce du Québec (FCCQ) released the findings at a news conference today in Ottawa.  The overall score was compiled by measuring the government's performance across six categories:

Category Grade
Public education F
Keeping contraband cigarettes from kids F
Resources for law enforcement B
Border security (smuggling) F
Fiscal responsibility F
Penalties and sentencing C
Overall Grade F

While law enforcement agencies, including the newly created Cornwall Regional Task Force,  continue to do their best to combat the problem of contraband tobacco in Canada, the sheer volume of illegal cigarettes being manufactured and smuggled in Canada means that police can only interdict a small portion of what is being sold in communities across Canada.  And recent seizures, notably one involving 14 million cigarettes in Alberta, lead NCACT to believe that contraband is spreading throughout the country.

By comparison, the areas where the Harper government continues to fall short in its response are many. These include:

  • Failing to take action on preventing kids from getting access to contraband tobacco;
  • Cumulatively allowing billions in tobacco tax dollars to be lost while 175 organized crime groups profit at the government's expense;
  • Failing to address the 50+ known illegal cigarette factories operating in Ontario and Quebec;
  • Proposing rollbacks in some important anti-smuggling /contraband tobacco initiatives;
  • Failing to deliver on a promised public education campaign to raise awareness of the criminal networks behind contraband tobacco; and,
  • Failing to provide adequate criminal penalties to deter those involved in the contraband trade.

Electronic copies of the report can be obtained at www.stopcontrabandtobacco.ca.


National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco:

"We continue to be very disappointed by the government's lack of progress on the contraband tobacco file.  There's been a strong commitment by the RCMP and other police forces in attempts to stem the flow of contraband, but the response by the government itself amounts to a series of modest promises on which they've repeatedly failed to deliver," said Gary Grant, spokesperson for the NCACT and 39-year veteran and retired Staff Superintendent of the Toronto Police Service.  "This is a serious criminal problem, with organized crime groups reaping huge profits that are being used to fund other criminal enterprises such as drug and weapons trafficking.  After taking a close look at the federal government's response, we've got to once again conclude that they're simply not doing enough to stop this problem."

Customs and Immigration Union:

"The federal government, through the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), appears to actually be backing away from a number of existing anti-contraband enforcement activities," said Jean-Pierre Fortin, Vice President of the Customs and Immigration Union. "Proposals have been put forward to reduce local intelligence gathering capacity by centralizing targeting activities, and abandoning CBSA's role in the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy by re-directing the funds earmarked for assessing the effectiveness of reducing tobacco smuggling.  It doesn't appear the government is moving in the right direction when it comes to anti-contraband tobacco border security measures."

Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec:

"Contraband tobacco has become serious business issue for thousands of legitimate businesspeople across Canada as they're being forced to compete with an enormous black market. Retailers in particular are seeing not just lost tobacco sales, but lost customers and the entire range of products they would normally buy," added Denis Hamel, Vice President of Public Affairs, Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec. "The losses to businesses are being mirrored with the loss of tax revenue to the federal government.  Hundreds of millions of tax dollars that would normally be collected each year aren't.  With the size of deficits being run in Ottawa and in several provinces, we think governments needs to get serious about cracking down on contraband."

About the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)

The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is a Canadian advocacy group formed with the participation of businesses, organizations and individuals concerned about the growing danger of contraband cigarettes.  NCACT members share the goals of working together to educate people and urge government to take quick action to stop this growing threat.

The members of the NCACT include: Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), Retail Council of Canada, Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, National Convenience Stores Distributors Association (NACDA), Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Frontier Duty Free Association, Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers, Fédération des Chambres de Commerce du Québec (FCCQ), Conseil du Patronat du Québec (CPQ), l'Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ), Toronto Crime Stoppers, National Citizen's coalition, and The Customs & Immigration Union (CIU).

SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco

For further information:

Media inquiries:

John Perenack, perenack@room-40.com (quick response), 416-238-2576

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National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco

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