TORONTO: OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding that Doug Ford come clean about his secret deal to privatize Ontario's cannabis warehouse, amid startling new revelations that his staff tried to conceal the cost of a sole-sourced, personalized camper van for the Premier to avoid public scrutiny.
This is a government that's operating in the shadows, despite all the empty talk about restoring transparency, accountability and trust, said Thomas. Ford can't continue to hide important information that people deserve to know. They just won't put up with the cover-ups, cronyism and corruption that has quickly become this government's stock-in-trade.
For months, OPSEU has been asking the Progressive Conservatives to provide basic information about the Ontario Cannabis Store distribution centre, including how much citizens are shelling out for the warehouse and which company got the contract. But the government has refused to comply.
OPSEU has uncovered the location of the 78,000-square-foot facility in Oakville, but there are still a lot of questions that the government must answer.
Given the latest revelations that Ford's staff told the OPP to order a camper van for the premier but keep it 'off the books,' I can't help but wonder: what else is Ford hiding? said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.
He's rushed into this reckless plan to privatize the cannabis industry with so little thought to how it could hurt kids in communities. Who else is benefitting from this scheme? Are they connected to the Ford family? If this premier is 'for the people,' then he should show them some respect and come clean.
The public needs to know who is working in the warehouse, what criteria was used in the hiring process, what kind of security checks were made, what kind of security clearance they have, and are privacy issues of customers front and centre, Almeida added.
The warehouse debacle is yet another embarrassment for the rookie government, which has completely bungled the rollout of legalized cannabis - the biggest change to public policy in generations, he said. Ford broke a key election promise to help keep cannabis away from children, vowing that stores would have to be more than 450 metres away from schools. Under new regulations, they can set up shop just 150 metres away.
I don't know who's pulling the strings in the Premier's Office, but the only people who benefit from that are private retailers keen to turn a profit, not parents who want to keep their kids safe, Almeida said.
Municipalities can still vote to 'opt-out' of private cannabis and demand that Ford roll out a responsible plan with the LCBO handling cannabis sales, Thomas added.
It looks like this government is putting corporate interests ahead of public safety. But there's still time to fix it and OPSEU members will keep up the fight to hold them accountable.
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