In marijuana legalization, Manitoba PCs torn between competing ideologies

Social conservatism dukes it out with free market economics

Graphic by Ernest Zarzuela.

Brian Pallister has handled everything to do with marijuana legalization in the least ideologically consistent way possible.

The Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party loves free market enterprise – at least when it has political benefit. Prominently featured as the fifth point of the Statement of Guiding Principles of the party, it encourages “Economic growth and job creation through private enterprise, entrepreneurship and commercial competitiveness.” Yet Manitobans time and again fail to see policy which consistently displays this love for the free market and private enterprise.

While easy to simply put words on a page, it remains challenging to address real issues in a consistent manner while maintaining reservations throughout the process. As marijuana legalization quickly nears finalization, it has been clear that the Pallister government has pursued animosity rather than truly putting the interest of Manitobans first.

From where the drug can be legally consumed to the channels of distribution, the Progressive Conservatives have desperately tried to hold on to the antiquated policies of the past while revering the market in other domains. However, what was perhaps very much unexpected was the hypocrisy from these self-proclaimed “progressives” in their actions.

Unfortunately for Manitobans, each of these internally ideologically volatile policies will have real-life consequences.

On where marijuana is legal to use, the PCs have made it very simple in the most classist way possible: if you do not own a house, do not light up. This is because they have already outlined where it will be prohibited – streets, school grounds, parks, beaches, restaurant patios, bars, and sports and entertainment venues. And although many of those places should be areas where marijuana should be banned, the government will be intentionally banning it in many of the places where people can currently smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. This is all for the sole purpose of making sure that – in the words of Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living Kelvin Goertzen – they do not “normalize” its use.

Through this one comment, Goertzen undercuts the entire ideology of his government. The name Progressive Conservative should in practice entail progressive social policies, and conservative, free-market economics with smaller government interference. In taking a hardline approach to where marijuana can and cannot be used – and blocking any private enterprise from allowing its consumption in the way that alcohol is consumed today – the PCs have exposed their true colours: enthusiasts of big government when it benefits their true social conservative ideology.

In the legalization process, the federal government allowed the growing of four or less plants per household. However, the Manitoba PCs had other plans. Forget growing in your own home – home growing will be completely illegal under Manitoba legislation. Instead, you will have to go into a retail location to buy marijuana. Not just any retail location: pre-selected businesses who were to face a mandatory application process – an approach to which Minister of Growth, Enterprise, and Trade Blaine Pedersen ironically deemed “hands-off.”

Naturally, a large company known as Kratom Crazy – who was already a big player in the medical marijuana business – was one of the four sole beneficiaries of legal licenses to operate retail locations for recreational marijuana. In allowing only four businesses to operate, the provincial government has preemptively created an oligopoly in the cannabis industry from which our province may never fully recover.

Behold our connoisseurs of the free market – yet, when it comes to big business, Manitoba PCs once again ignore their self-professed principles and turn a blind eye to free market economics.