Michael Armstrong, Associate Professor of Operations Research in Brock’s Goodman School of Business, wrote a piece recently published in the Hamilton Spectator about the Ontario government’s interventionist practices undermining free-market principles.
During last June’s election campaign, Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives promised to “open Ontario for business”. Since then, they’ve indeed adopted several policies with pro-business appearances. But the policies’ details often include government intrusion into what should be free-market decisions.
The most recent case concerns the province’s legislation on cannabis retailing that passed last week. The Conservatives initially had taken a business-friendly approach to this. In August, they’d cancelled the ex-governing Liberal’s floundering plan for government-owned cannabis stores. Instead, they promised to open pot retailing to businesses. That was a welcome move toward free-market principles.
But their law intervenes in the market by arbitrarily favouring some companies over others. It limits licensed cannabis growers — but no other firms — to a single retail outlet each.
That’s a huge setback for the big growers. Some were planning provincewide chains of perhaps a hundred stores each. The Conservatives’ decision means the firms with the greatest cannabis expertise are all but barred from retailing it here.
It’s a mystifying choice. These are Canadian firms producing products in Ontario, often in Tory-blue rural ridings. They’re leaders in an expanding, potentially global, industry. Why handicap them on their home turf?
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