Tobacco Info

From Tobacco Info No. 9 - April 2012
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$284 million up in smoke


Auditor General’s report confirms fears raised by Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada


By Pierre Croteau


In 2009, the federal government, acting through the provincial Tobacco Marketing Board, paid $284 million to Ontario tobacco farmers to transition to other crops. But some of the farmers pocketed the buyout while transferring their production quotas elsewhere. The resulting tobacco crops were so successful that tobacco production in the province actually increased in 2009 and 2010 as compared to 2008.

The Tobacco Transition Program, launched in haste in 2008, was so poorly designed that the federal government is unable to recover its money, according to interim auditor general John Wiersema in a November 2011 parliamentary report.
This report confirmed fears expressed in March 2009 by Neil Collishaw, research director at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC).

Amongst what the auditor general refers to as the “weaknesses” of the program, Wiersema reveals that “Producers did not clearly understand the purpose of the program,” while the funding agreement between Agriculture Canada and the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Grower’s Marketing Board “Should have covered quota transfers.” Wiersema also concludes that “The Tobacco Marketing Board … represents the interests of all Ontario flue-cured tobacco producers … (and) this could be seen as a conflict of interest.”

Agriculture Canada has accepted all of the auditor’s recommendations.