Canadians face a sobering reality going into spring

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Pradip Rodrigues

Usually many people wake up on April 1 to shocking headlines that turn out to be a joke. But in 2019 the jarring headlines made a lot of people hope that the headlines were just jokes. Let’s start with cannabis stores, the first 25 licensed cannabis stores in Ontario were open for business. While everyone has been touting the advent of legalized cannabis as a boon for people in chronic pain, the images accompanying the story should reveal the bulk of the purchasers were young twentysomething millennials waiting in line. It was as if they were waiting to get into a popular club or a rock concert. In the months to come, the profile of cannabis users will be the same—young people lining up outside cannabis stores waiting to get high. None of them look like they are in any serious pain, perhaps it is all mental.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has promised to lift the 25 license cap once the cannabis supply stabilizes, and more such stores are expected to go up. If this trend continues, two things are sure to happen- LCBO and Beer Stores will start to feel the pinch. Pharmacies, coffee shops and grocery stores all want in on the action. Millennials who are otherwise very health conscious and eschew binge drinking are quite okay with getting high on cannabis. Thankfully this generation prefers Uber and public transit as opposed to cars.

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The carbon tax effect

On April 1st, Ontario along with three other provincial governments opposed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to reduce greenhouse emissions were slapped with the phased-in carbon tax.
Based on federal figures, the tax in the four provinces will result in an approximate cost increase of 4.42 cents a litre for gasoline, 5.37 cents for light fuel oil (home heating fuel), 3.91 cents per cubic metre for natural gas and 3.10 cents per litre for propane.

Based on those figures, and according to calculations, the average Ontario household will pay roughly $10 more a month for natural gas (based on average of 252 m3 of consumption) as of April 1.
According to many business leaders, a carbon tax is a sure way to hit the economy. Critics say the carbon tax will make manufacturing in Canada more costly and that will probably prompt many businesses to shift or expand their production in countries that don’t have a carbon tax, one such country coming to mind is situated just a few hours from most Canadian cities- the United States.
Other companies could well source more of their products from countries such as China and India. Incidentally since 2006, China has been emitting more CO2 than any other country. India along with most developing countries emit more CO2 as western nations have more or less stopped manufacturing products in the west. So, the carbon tax could simply end up shrinking Canada’s carbon footprint along with its economy while enlarging the carbon footprint in China and giving a boost to their economy. Environmentalists who are pushing for Canada and other western nations to adopt radical measures to combat climate change seem to treat the west as if it was another planet, ignoring the fact that the problem is simply being shifted from rich countries to poor or developing countries. As if their lives and skies and air are less valuable than ours!

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The truth is that the air in western countries is way cleaner than it was in the 60s and 70s and only started to clear with the advent of better and cleaner technology and outsourcing manufacturing to low-cost countries like China. Today pollution and acid rain that was once a major concern in western cities has shifted to Shanghai, New Delhi and other smog-covered third world nations. While our headlines here are dominated by the Opioid crisis that is killing thousands of Canadians and Americans every year, the total number of deaths attributable to air pollution in India and China in 2016 was 1.61 and 1.58 million respectively. In 2019, that number could be even higher.

TTC fare hike

On April 1, TTC fares went up 10 cents and some worry that it will prompt even more riders to consider alternatives. A flatlining of ridership has been a concern since 2014 when it was first reported. Studies indicate that factors, including congestion, changes in customer mobility, and growth in digital ride-hailing services has caused ridership to fall.

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The decrease in Metropass sales which currently generates approximately 40% of total ridership is also troubling.

All this is happening as the city experiences a population boom. It is now clear that more millennials prefer to simply use Uber to get around town as it is often quicker and cheaper if two to four people going in one direction share the cost. And today technology is allowing more people to work from home or at least not go into office every day. That trend is expected to accelerate in the years to come and it will affect TTC ridership. So, despite the carbon tax, more people are actually using cars to get around that ever before and increasing TTC fares isn’t helping the environment. Instead if the federal government opted to subsidize public transit across the country it would possibly do more for the environment. It would get more cars off the road. -CINEWS

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