There are very few items conservatives in Ontario dislike more than Kathleen Wynne. Trust me on this, if you ask 100 die-hard conservatives if they have a pleasant view of our Premier, two might come back with something other than unadulterated vitriol, and one of those individuals probably misheard the question.
Conservatives tend to view Wynne as the wretched symbol of another item they do not like – a nanny state philosophy within government institutions. Conservatives become helplessly enraged whenever the government takes over an industry or injects a government revenue tool inside an otherwise independent market.
It is a basic litmus test among grassroots conservatives – leave the free market alone.
Except, evidently, when it comes to marijuana.
The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party have become quiet pom-pom waivers for the government-run distribution system proposed by Premier Wynne. On the pot file, the PCs are full-on, unabashed, nanny state boosters. Just don’t tell anyone, k?
Before Doug Ford won the leadership race I was on the fence about whether the tale of him slinging hash in high school was true, partly because I never put a lot of stock into rumours that are decades old, but mostly because I think it is unfair to attempt to resurrect sins from the past for political gain.
But I’m now leaning towards absolving him from this media-driven rumour, because it’s starting to look like he has never truly examined how weed can be a viable business. Also, instead of being the new leader of the PC Party, Ford might be party leader in title only, quietly obeying the true concentration of power embedded within the conservative caucus, a caucus seemingly at the mercy of its religious base.
Ford has given several answers on what a Progressive Conservative government means for marijuana in Ontario. One of his first public statements after finally being declared the undisputed winner of the PC leadership was the following to CBC’s Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan.
“We’re going down a path that no one really knows. I have been open to a fair market and letting the markets dictate. I don’t like the government controlling anything no matter what it is…. I’m open to a free market and I’m going to consult with our caucus.”
Well consult he did, because 24 hours later Ford was already walking back his comments. In an interview with Global News, Ford said he would take a look at privatizing but first, he would implement Kathleen Wynne’s plan of a total government monopoly, presumably because he doesn’t like the government controlling anything.
Perhaps Ford did consult with his party’s establishment, who told Ford in no uncertain terms that the party, his party, was actually supportive of Wynne’s plan.
Seems Doug’s influence may be measured solely through his willingness to play ball with party stalwarts, because he looks like a man unwilling to follow his instincts, settling on being a leader who takes his marching orders from the establishment he is known to deride.
In other words, Ford seems weak, beholden to the caucus that did not want him elected leader in the first place.
The Post Millennial has learned through leaked internal emails that the PC caucus was worried to go against Wynne’s plan for government-controlled marijuana because a sizable portion of their base supports outright prohibition.
The emails expose the internal conflict between social conservatives and establishment conservatives who are diametrically opposed on the marijuana issue.
The PC Party has not been overly communicative on what their position is on marijuana, and it appears this is a deliberate strategy, a calculation meant to deflect the spotlight from exposing their never-ending internal strife, a strife most notably exposed when Patrick Brown was unceremoniously removed from the top of the ticket in January.
Specific to marijuana, the PCs are once again divided between MPPs who want to not disturb their base and more libertarian-leaning MPPs like Randy Hillier. In the leaked emails, Hillier is portrayed as a rabble-rouser, a maverick who tweeted about his support for a privatized free-market distribution model at the same time caucus was quietly agreeing to support Wynne’s government-run proposal.
Hillier has always been a politician who carved his own path, championing issues like e-cigarettes and property rights, and his caucus makes it clear that there is no room for divergent thought for a party who is afraid to challenge its base on singular issues.
Marijuana activist Jodie Emery thinks Ford’s adherence to the party establishment was both surprising and part of an overall disappointing landscape.
“I was completely stunned at the very quick reversal of his (Ford’s) position, but I realize political parties often control their candidates, so he was clearly told by higher-ups that his “free market cannabis retail” statement wouldn’t be allowed to stand.”
Emery took it further when asked how a government-run system would look like.
“Government monopolies are cartel-style systems.”
Emery is correct – government monopolies operate with impunity, able to make the rules as they go along, at the expense of actual liberty and, in this case, to the benefit of various ex-politicians and police officers who spent years railing against the substance they now profit from.
I never thought I would say this, but perhaps Doug Ford needs to summon the spirit of his brother, Rob, go pick up some takeout, turn off the radio, and smoke a joint already.
Then maybe he will have the gumption to be an actual leader and tell his caucus what a conservative view on marijuana actually looks like.