Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On generations, reefer madness and focusing on the economy

A week later and my news clippings are still filled with news about Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s sensible talk about marijuana legalization – and they say it’s hard for an opposition leader to get attention in the summer, when the House isn’t sitting…

The Conservatives are helping keep the issue alive with the usual fear-mongery fundraising pitch warning of Liberal-inspired reefer madness and the breakdown of civil society should we not continued with the spectacular failure that has been the war on drugs. Here’s what they fear the future would look like:

Ironically, these distortion-filled, fear-mongery fundraising pitches designed to scare money out of the base are the crack cocaine of Canadian politics: hopelessly addictive, and you need more each time to get the same results. Yet they’re legal?

But seriously, you’ll note that the soft on crime pro-organized crime Conservative pitch said “While the Harper government is focused on the economy…” And how’s that going?

Erasing the federal deficit is the top priority for the Conservative government, but monthly tracking shows Ottawa’s bottom line is moving in the wrong direction.

The federal government posted a $2.7-billion deficit over the first two months of the fiscal year, which begins April 1. That compares to a $1.8-billion deficit during the same two months – April and May – the year before.

So maybe stop with the lame e-mails and focus a little harder or something.

Meanwhile, over at the Globe, they tackle the issue (no, not the economy, silly) with a subscribers-only piece claiming “Trudeau’s stand on pot legalization gives Harper a generational wedge.” Is it a coincidence they put most of their weakly argued analysis-pieces behind a firewall?

Anyway, they're not the first pundits to argue only young people (who dont' vote much anyways) would find appeal in legalization,. Unlike the older middle class, who do vote and don’t like it.

But is that the case? Rather than relying on gut-based evidence, perhaps there is research we can use? Why wait, yes there is.

You know who does vote, and in big numbers? Baby boomers. And how do they feel about legalization? According to a U.S. study from the Pew Center, today 50 per cent of boomers (aged 49 to 67) support legalization, a number that has risen sharply over the last 13 years.

The study also found that 54 per cent of GenXers and 65 per cent of millennials are pro-legalization.

Now, this isn’t to say that this issue is a vote-getter for anyone, as that would need another study – but given the wide-spread support across age ranges, it’s not likely to be a vote-taker either. And while its true that under a first past the post system you don’t need a majority vote to form a majority government – it could well be there’s a decent enough core of hardened opposition to be beneficial to Harper -- I suspect that’s already his base.

But what is clear is that making this a generational thing, and saying legalization only appeals to youth to lazy to vote anyways, is a lazy hypothesis unsupported by the facts. While a majority of our politicians may be behind the times, a majority of Canadians are already there.

UPDATE: Here's an Angus Reid study from 2012 with Canadian numbers. According to this report, 57 pert cent of Canadians favour legalization. Support ranges from a high of 64 per cent in Atlantic Canada to a low of 51 per cent in Alberta. Support is higher with men (64 per cent) than women (50 per cent). When broken down by age, support for legalization is actually highest from Age 35-54, at 61 per cent, followed by18-34 at 58 per cent and 55+ at 51 per cent.

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