Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Election 2015: The Party Platforms on Tobacco

Of the forty-two generation elections that have been held in Canada, tobacco has rarely been included among the electoral commitments of the political parties who vie for voter support.

The 2015 federal election, which will culminate in a vote on Monday October 19, is a notable exception.* Of the 3 leading national parties, two have made specific commitments to implement tobacco control policies in their official platforms.

The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) was the first platform released (on October 5). In it, the party said it "will introduce plain packaging requirements for tobacco products, similar to those in Australia and the United Kingdom." (Liberal Platform, page 21)

Later that week, on October 9th, the two other parties released theirs:
  • The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) made no mention of tobacco or smoking. (Conservative Platform)
  • The New Democratic Party (NDP) committed to "implementing plain packaging of tobacco products" and to increased expenditures on reducing smoking by $10 million per year. (NDP Platform, pages 4 and 64).
Neither of the two prominent minor parties - the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois - made reference to tobacco in their campaign literature.

Additional commitments had been sought of the three main parties by two civil society groups prior to the release of the platform.  Among these were requests for the party to:
  • "endorse the development of a made-for-Canada plan to end tobacco use"
  • "support a comprehensive review to examine ways to enhance and modernize Canada's federal tobacco control legislation and strategy"
  • "support a substantial increase in Health Canada's tobacco control budget" possibly by using a license fee.
  •  "support federal legislation to ban flavours including menthol in tobacco products..
The Conservative Party did not respond to either request.

The Liberal Party said it supported a target of less than 5% smoking prevalence by 2035. It reaffirmed its commitment to plain packaging, said it would examine ways to enhance and modernize tobacco controls laws. It made no commitment to additional funding, but said it would review the approach of a license fee as part of a renewal process. It expressed support for provincial laws which ban menthol, but cautioned that a review of whether further action was needed would be required before changes to federal law would be implemented.

The NDP did not agree to an endgame, but said it would "implement measures to markedly reduce tobacco use across the country." It did agree to a comprehensive review and a consultations towards a "dynamic" new federal strategy. It made a specific commitment to $10 million per year funding, and said it would consider a license fee. It agreed to plain packaging and to continue its previous position of banning menthol in cigarettes.

* In September 2008, the Conservative Party promised to ban flavouring in tobacco. The Cracking down on tobacco marketing aimed at Youth Act", passed in 2009 after their election victory, was the fulfillment of that promise.