Since the Ford Conservatives in Ontario released their first budget a few weeks ago, we’ve seen trickles and trickles of news come out about either details from that budget buried deep in the document or about the fall out from the announcements in it. Some of these details have been disturbing and difficult to watch, as they are the kinds of things that many people were expecting when this party was elected. Yet there have been other details that have slowly come out that have been so jarring, mostly because they are the kinds of things that you wouldn’t expect any government to touch for very good reasons. This weekend we heard of another such detail, one that’s left many wondering about the morals of this government at Queen’s Park:
To put this cut in proper perspective, you need to look back at a section in the Ontario budget where the Ford Conservatives announced that they were going to allow casinos to give free alcohol to patrons. Then you add to the picture the fact that this government wants to expand online gaming options. With that all together, now you start to see a fuller, and more disturbing picture.
For most of the moves that this government has made so far you could make a philosophical or partisan argument for them, even though I don’t agree with them. But this decision falls into a far different category. What exactly is the rationale for this? Why make gambling so much more accessible, allow casinos to liquor up their patrons (because many people know, we all make our best decisions while sloppy drunk, especially when it comes to money, right?) and then take away the agency that “provides resources to prevent problem gambling”? What seriously public good does that serve?
Now some might argue, maybe the Ford Conservatives themselves, that this is about giving adults the freedom to make adult choices, but there is a big problem with that logic when it comes to this story; you can give people the freedom to drink, smoke or gamble how they please, but taking away the options to help those who have addictions problems with those same things does nothing to increase that freedom. It only serves to push more people to be entrapped by their addictions.
And all to save $2.5 million? Come on, that’s not right. So, the organization that provides the resources and research that helps people deal with their gambling addictions will be gone by mid-July, with their offices closed, their staff fired and those needing help having one less major venue to get the help they need.
All this still leaves the question of “why?” open to discussion. Why is the government taking this step, one that seems morally craven and bankrupt? I am only left with one conclusion that seems to make any sense; to goose the revenues of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, there by goosing the revenues the Province of Ontario takes it. If you make it easier to gamble (which isn’t hard today to be honest), then ply those who are more likely to gamble with free booze, making them less susceptible to making sober decisions, and then take away the help from those who have gambling problems, who might get help to face their demons and stop gambling, you’ll probably end up with more people gambling, therefore more money coming in. Other that this, what else really makes sense at this point?
It’s one thing for the government to give adults more access to adult choices, but it’s a very different thing to take away the help of those that need it and take advantage of their addictions. That is a new kind of low, one that any amount of new revenue brought in can’t justify, especially given the costs to our society and the provincial government of the fall out from those addictions. Again, all for $2.5 million. The moral repugnance of this decision is one that bothers me in a way that many other bad decisions from this government haven’t yet. It’s cold, it’s callous and it’s the kind of behaviour that is just cruel and greedy. And given the family history of the Premier and the trials they have faced with addictions, you’d think that this government would be a bit more sensitive to that. But obviously that doesn’t seem to be the case here. This doesn’t seem to be a case of political conviction or partisan belief in action; the only explanation that is left that makes sense is a much darker one, one that does not justify the ends that this government seems to believe it will bring. It leaves me to wonder which people this move is for exactly.