News Release

The $100 million election goodie that kills people

Doctors condemn back-door taxpayers’ subsidy to continued tobacco growing and propose a better idea for helping tobacco farmers exit the tobacco growing business.

Ottawa – April 27, 2005 

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) condemned the misspending of $102 million of Ontario and federal taxpayers’ money on an ill-conceived program that will supposedly get tobacco farmers out of tobacco growing.  In reality, however, the program leaves the door wide open to farmers to take the money and keep on farming tobacco.

“It’s another $100 million boondoggle!” exclaimed Atul Kapur, PSC’s President.  With no fanfare, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's tobacco farmer handout program was made public on Saturday April 23 (Tobacco Adjustment Assistance Program, related news release) and all the money will be committed by May 3, 2005.  To be eligible tobacco farmers have to agree to give up ownership of tobacco quota.  But the program specifically allows them to rent tobacco quota, or work as an employee of another tobacco farmer.  In other words, they could take the money and keep on farming tobacco.  “It’s a back-door subsidy to tobacco growing, and an outrageous misuse of our tax dollars,” fumed Dr. Kapur.

Tobacco buy-out money was promised by Bob Speller, former Agriculture Minister and defeated Liberal candidate in the spring, 2004 federal election.  The government waited to deliver on this promise until now, when election fever is once again in the air.

The program could potentially pay about half a million dollars to each participating farmer, but there is no guarantee that this would result in less tobacco being grown or fewer people working in tobacco agriculture.

"It is outrageous that the federal and provincial governments would throw away $100 million of taxpayers' money to prop up continued tobacco growing when, every year, tobacco kills 60 Canadians per tobacco farm," concluded Dr. Kapur. 

At the same time, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada put forward their own plan for an orderly phase-out of tobacco growing in Ontario.

Here are some key features of the plan: 

  • Dignified, orderly and complete phase-out of tobacco growing in Ontario over 25 years.

  • Fair to farmers and good for public health.

  • Operated co-operatively between farmers’ organizations and public health agencies.

  • Paid for by government revenues, completely offset by new taxes on tobacco companies, thereby involving no new cost to ordinary Canadian taxpayers.

  • $3.00 per pound of quota.  Each farmer would have to retire all his or her quota at once, but could choose to exit at any time between now and 2030.

  • Conditions for farmers:

÷They could no longer grow tobacco or work in tobacco growing

÷Tobacco could no longer be grown on their land - ever.

  • Other conditions:

÷No government, Marketing Board or tobacco farmer participation in tobacco trade shows or tobacco trade missions.

÷Total tobacco grown must be decreased by 3.5 million pounds or more every year and reach 0 by 2030.

  • Community economic development funds to total $130 million over 25 years.

  • Total cost - $1.08 billion, paid for from government revenue totally offset by new taxes on tobacco companies.

“We think it is a good alternative, and we would certainly be willing to work with tobacco farmers in campaigning for its implementation,” said Neil Collishaw, PSC’s Research Director.  “We would rather see a billion dollars of tobacco company money spent on a tobacco farmer buy-out program that would actually work than $100 million of ordinary taxpayers’ money wasted on a boondoggle that is wide-open to abuse and being misused as a back-door subsidy to continued tobacco growing,” concluded Mr. Collishaw.

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Neil Collishaw, Research Director

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada


Office, 1 613 233 4878; Mobile, 1 613 297 3590

Further documentation:  A proposal for managing tobacco supply reduction in Ontario 2005 to 2030

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