TORONTO, Jan. 26, 2023 /CNW/ – This morning, Mr. Kenny Shim, President of the Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association (OKBA) spoke at the Ontario pre-budget consultations in Toronto. In anticipation of the upcoming budget, the OKBA is making good on their promise to press the Ford government to finally crack down on illegal tobacco sales in the province; a problem that has caused hundreds of small businesses to close permanently over the last decade.
As the leading voice for independent convenience store owners in Ontario, the OKBA relaunched their Save Our Stores Campaign to bring political awareness to the cigarette trafficking problem that is flourishing across the province, while legal store owners pay the price. Over the past 10 years, the OKBA has lost close to 1,000 members, many of whom have closed their businesses permanently due to unfair competition from organized crime groups selling contraband.
Taking a targeted approach to the illegal tobacco trade, the Province of Quebec spends $20M annually on contraband enforcement (versus $1–2M in Ontario, despite Ontario having a much higher population).
Independent convenience store owners are frustrated by the ongoing inaction, and now hope the Government of Ontario to follow through on their commitments in the “Addressing Unregulated Tobacco” section of last year’s budget, including modernizing the Tobacco Tax Act to expand enforcement partnerships with interested provincial, local, and First Nations police services.
“Many of our store owners see organized crime groups selling contraband tobacco right out in the open”, said spokesperson Mr. Kenny Shim, OKBA President. “Police must be empowered to get more involved, and we know this would make a positive difference, because we hear from our counterparts in Quebec that the contraband situation has improved there. We want the Ford government to give police the powers they need to crack down on this serious problem.”
According to police, many organized crime groups who profit from contraband tobacco also traffic illegal drugs, weapons, and can be involved in human trafficking.
And according to the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco in 2019, Quebec’s investment in tackling the illegal tobacco trade has yielded a 10:1 return, with tobacco tax revenue increasing by $180M annually without any tobacco tax increases. By the Ford government’s own admission, Ontario is losing up to $750M annually due to unregulated tobacco sales. In addition, all the effective anti-smoking regulations implemented by government are ignored by illegal contraband traffickers.
Added Shim, “We believe the public needs to know about the unfair challenges our store owners face. And the massive tax losses for all Ontarians. As licensed retailers, we follow all government mandates, and we pay our taxes. It is extremely frustrating that contraband dealers are still not more seriously dealt with. We expect the Ford government to take a firm stand against illegal tobacco, to help our communities and law-abiding store owners stay in business.”
For more information, please visit www.saveourstores.ca
The OKBA represents over 900 C-store owner members across Ontario.
SOURCE Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association