QUEEN'S PARK, ON, Feb. 26, 2019 /CNW/ -Today, Gary Grant, the National Spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) unveiled the Legislative Checklist to Effectively Combat Contraband Tobacco in Ontario, a guiding document aimed at helping policymakers as they outline their upcoming 2019 budget.
Ontario has the unfortunate distinction of leading the country in both the product and the sale of contraband tobacco with about one in three cigarettes purchased in the province being illegal. The previous government made minor adjustments throughout the years, yet contraband rates remained consistent throughout.
"Contraband tobacco takes away more than $750 million from provincial tax revenue," said Mr. Grant, a 39-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service and founder of Toronto Crime Stoppers. "Lost revenue is going directly to organized crime groups across the province – groups that traffic guns, drugs and humans."
Ontario needs to make proper use of its police services. As it stands, only Minister of Finance officials along with RCMP officers have the authority to conduct full contraband tobacco investigations. Contraband tobacco has proven to be a significant enough problem that adequate resources should be diverted to quelling its presence.
"Local and regional police services are the key," continued Grant. "Not only do we have to allow them to participate in contraband investigations, we need to ensure they are given the proper resources to take on a more active role. In Quebec for instance, their Accès Tabac program funds these local initiatives. Not only have they reduced the rate of contraband in their province from 33% to 12%, but they're making nearly $14 back for ever $1 they spend."
The debate surrounding the appropriate allocation of resources then extends to the dedicated Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team. The government has grown the team from 9 members to 18 members and while the NCACT is encouraged by this move, it is not enough. Ontario is both the largest province, and has the worst problem of contraband tobacco, and yet its team pales in relation to other provinces. New Brunswick has a team of 9 for a population smaller than Ottawa, Manitoba has a team of 9 for a population smaller than Toronto, and Quebec leads the way with a team of 54. Based on these numbers, Ontario should have a dedicated taskforce of at least 60 to be well equipped to make inroads against contraband.
"For too long has the black market been able to thrive at the expense of our tax dollars, and at the expense of our communities," concluded Grant. "2019 needs to be the year where Ontario takes action to address this scourge in the province. Learn from our neighbors in Quebec on what works, adapt it for the Ontario landscape and watch as contraband levels drop throughout the province. We are encouraged by the commitments made by Minister Fedeli and the rest of the government and look forward to specific actions laid out in Budget 2019."
The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is a Canadian advocacy group formed by organizations and associations 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. More information about the Coalition can be found on our website, www.stopcontrabandtobacco.ca.
SOURCE National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT)
For further information: Media Contact: Michael Hutchison, NCACT Public Affairs, Telephone: 647-317-9057, Email: [email protected]