Leaders of Ontario’s three main parties debated on Tuesday evening live on air, a day before the official kick-off of the provincial election race.
In an op-ed, columnist Tom Parkin wrote that NDP’s Andrea Horwath won the debate by letting the Conservative leader Doug Ford and Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s current premier and Liberal leader, “bicker.”
But as the debate continued, Horwath, who is going into her third election campaign as the party’s leader, made no bold statement on marijuana.
What is special about Horwath’s NDP is that it took a second-place, according to a shocking new poll.
The last time the NDP took premiership of Ontario was in 1995, with the leadership of the province traditionally being held either by the Liberals or the Progressive Conservatives.
Conducted on May 3 and 4 for Maclean’s by Pollara Strategic Insights, the online poll of 1,010 eligible voters shows that support for the Liberals has declined since other recent public polls.
Ford, who made headlines when he said he would privatize the marijuana industry in mid-March, is enjoying a strong lead with 40 percent support. Horwath is in second place with 30 percent, leaving Wynne’s Liberals at 23 percent.
NDP’s stance on marijuana?
Like Alcohol, the NDP favors restricting the sale of pot to adults aged 19 or older. Also, similarly to the Liberals, NDP leaders have also backed the idea of using the government-like LCBO to distribute marijuana but criticized their plan to have 40 LCBO-run pot shops by next year, saying this won’t meet demand, giving more opportunity for the black market to flourish.
For the NDP, it is a must for prime agricultural land to be preserved from being overrun by marijuana-growing operations.
Pollara’s poll also showed that Horwath’s NDP has “a lot of room to grow.”
Horwath stayed out of bickering
During the debate, Horwath stayed away from tongue-lashing bickering between Ford and Wynne.
Macleans said Ford and Wynne “rarely” spoke, “directly to voters or express empathy for the frustrations being raised—about police carding, public transit, substance addiction, housing, helping children with autism and more.”
Instead, Horwath stuck to her mantra that Ontarians don’t have to settle for bad or worse, offering a new breath of air.
“This is the problem with Ontario right now, folks,” Horwath said at one point as Ford and Wynne acrimoniously argued.
“While these two argue, our hydro bills are going through the roof,” she said, pinpointing at one of the voters’ major complaints at Wynne.
“While Mr. Ford and Ms. Wynne fight about who’s going to make the worse premier, I’m proposing something different.”
Liberals vs Conservatives on marijuana
Bickering between Wynne and Ford had already made headlines in mid-March, and marijuana was the reason.
Ford, who was the newly anointed leader for the Conservative party at the time, told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning, host Robyn Bresnahan, that: “I’ve always been open to a fair market, and I let the market dictate.”
“I don’t like government controlling anything,” he added, expressing the exact sentiment what Canadian marijuana advocates and activists are fighting against after feeling disillusioned with the Liberal-led government’s plans especially in Ontario.
Kathleen dismissed Ford’s comments on marijuana as “reckless,” saying that Ontarians don’t want “cannabis sold next to candy bars” in corner stores.
Liberals losing on marijuana
On Saturday, one of Canada’s leading marijuana activists Jodie Emery rejected the Liberal’s Cannabis Act, warning that it will bring 45 new criminal offenses.
Emery also hinted that maybe voters should not give their confidence vote to the Liberals again.
She said that that the government is not only “forcing us” to buy cannabis from them, stunting free market from flourishing, but they are also using the money being generated from marijuana to “press us.”
“That’s not the legalization we voted for,” she said, “Especially here in Ontario, you have the worst models.”
Activist wants NDP action on marijuana
Abi Roach, the director for the Cannabis Friendly Business Association, who goes by her public yet not real last name, is not seduced by Ford’s remarks on marijuana.
As a marijuana activist and political leftist, Roach hopes that the NDP will make cannabis a key topic.
“I’m glad [Ford] he got the conversation going, but I don’t know if he changed my mind,” she told Macleans in an interview published in March. “He’s conflicting because people who would usually vote NDP and would support the left are now looking at Ford,” she added.
“But on other things he’s saying, [voters on the left] are not in agreement. I need to hear the rest of his platform.”
Ontarians want to privatize weed?
So far, polls show that Ontarians are divided on whether they want a public or private business model for the marijuana market.
In a Nanos survey from July 2017, about 32 percent of respondents said they support having marijuana sold by “licensed and regulated private retailers instead of the LCBO” once it’s legalized, and 31 percent oppose the private model, Maclean’s reported.
However, six percent are undecided, 23 percent “somewhat support” a private model and nine percent “somewhat oppose” privatization.
The Canadian split on what’s the best business route on cannabis sales will definitely won’t be serving marijuana advocates on election day, June 7.