Doug Ford, Free Markets, and Cannabis

Ontario is approaching a provincial election. The normally centre-of-the-spectrum Ontario Liberals have shifted so far to the left that all it takes for a Conservative leader to win is recommend the government trust markets more than the current Liberal dynasty.

Doug Ford promises to be that guy. First, he promised a free market in cannabis, but that he had to consult with his caucus.

Well, somebody must have explained to him that before they open the market, the feds have to destroy BC Bud.

So now Ontario is shaping up like other provinces: start with the government monopoly, and then, once BC Bud and the dispensaries are out of the picture, open the market up to the LPs.

Before Ford backslid on his free and fair cannabis market stance, the current socialist commander Kathleen Wynne called the plan “reckless.”

Of course, she engaged in hyperbole. Ford wasn’t recommending cannabis be sold “next to candy bars” in local corner stores. He merely suggested that maybe, just maybe, private enterprise is better at dolling out goods and services than government bureaucracy.

That this is controversial in 2018 is troubling.

Of course, we’re led to believe that Wynne’s government “did a lot of research” on the issue beforehand, so rolling out 40 government-run cannabis stores (to be increased to 150 by 2020) is considered rational and empirically relevant.

Never mind that government bureaus are perfectly able to engage in confirmation bias. That all the research they did on cannabis was clearly self-serving mumbo jumbo.

In addition, the Ontario government made a deal with Shopify Inc’s e-commerce platform to run cannabis sales online. In economic and historic circles, when governments make exclusive deals with select businesses for a market closed to everyone else (backed by the power of the law), when these factors are present, we call that fascism.

It’s not straight-up socialism, and it certainly isn’t free market capitalism, but it does fit the economic model of Germany and Italy from the 1930s.

Now, Ford never said he was going to open the market for all. He just said, “I’m open to a free [cannabis] market and I’m going to consult with our caucus.”

Of course, just as the Liberals campaign on the left and govern on the right (with the exception of Wynne and Trudeau unfortunately), the Conservatives tend to campaign on the right and govern on the left.

While Ford says, “I don’t believe in the government sticking their hands in our lives all the time. I believe in letting the market dictate,” he really means he doesn’t believe in the government sticking their hands in our lives as much as the Liberals do. That he believes in letting the market dictate more than the Liberals do.

That doesn’t mean free markets. And considering that the MMPR was originally called “free market,” I suspect that a concrete definition of this term is in order before we put any faith into a politician promoting one.

Ford likely means something closer to what the Chamber of Commerce recommended to the Liberal government two years ago. Auctioning off access points to the highest bidder.

Unfortunately, the highest bidder is most certainly going to be a large LP.