Mandel’s personal relationships may be clouding his objectivity: NDP

EDMONTON – New Democrat candidate for Edmonton Whitemud, Dr. Bob Turner, called on Health minister Stephen Mandel to commit to a full ban on flavoured tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, despite his personal relationships with tobacco lobbyists.

“The research is there, the support from the House is there, I want to see Mandel commit to banning all flavoured cigarettes now, during these by-elections, while people are paying attention,” said Turner.

Numerous studies have shown that menthol is the flavor of tobacco most dangerous to Alberta youth. 1 in 3 youth smokers are smoking menthol cigarettes and are three times less likely to quit smoking than non-menthol smokers.

Despite this conclusive evidence, the legislation to ban flavoured tobacco, which was passed nearly a year ago, has not been proclaimed.

“All the minister has to do is sign off on it and it would be law. There is no reasonable explanation that the PCs haven’t moved forward,” said Turner.

Yet, despite the bill passing third reading almost unanimously in November 2013, the PCs have refused to sign off on it.

After the annual Health Ministers meeting in Banff, last month, Mandel refused to reveal to media where he stood on the issue, telling Canadian Press, “I don’t want to answer yes or no to things that are still up in the air and Menthol is still up in the air.”

“The only reason I can fathom that Mandel hasn’t moved forward with this important legislation is because his objectivity is being clouded by his personal relationships with tobacco lobbyists,” said Turner.

Hal Danchilla is a long-time PC strategist who currently sits on the PC party’s finance committee. He is also a donor who, 13 days after the flavoured tobacco legislation was first introduced, registered as a lobbyist for Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, which has a unique interest in seeing an exemption for menthol cigarettes under Bill 206. 

Patricia Mitsuka is currently Premier Prentice’s Principal Secretary, and formerly worked as Mandel’s Chief of Staff. In the space between those positions, she worked for Hal Danchilla’s lobbyist firm, Canadian Strategy Group.

Read our full backgrounder here.

“Mandel’s connection to the tobacco industry is more than suspicious. I see no other reason to hold back on the proclamation of the legislation, except to appease the interests of his friends,” said Turner.