Action Plan for an Aging Population

By Patrick O’Brien (AIMS on Campus Student Fellow) 

The Government of Nova Scotia is leading a new proposition to change how we think of the aging population, the benefits provided, the obstacles surrounding “aging” and the impact it has on our economy. By 2030 the Government of Nova Scotia estimates that one in four people will be over the age of 65, which shows a major change in demographic we will have going forward.

The “SHIFT” plan will make investments in transportation and affordable housing for those who want to retire in their own communities. It will seek to promote health and wellness, and promote participation in the labor market as the primary objectives. This is all capable with $13.6 million committed to the plan by the Premier Stephen McNeil with as many as 50 objectives to be completed by the end of 2020.

There are many positive aspects of the plan that could help the economy and community. Increasing the participation of older adults in the labor market lowers the unemployment rate for the province, which is 8.7% compared to 6.3% for the rest of Canada. It also brings experience and wisdom to these roles, not to mention that because there is such a large presence of older adults in many rural communities of Nova Scotia, it could increase competitiveness for the small businesses that adopt the hiring of older adults.

Another benefit of the plan is promoting healthy living, including exercising lessons. This also limits social isolation, which in a finding by the SHIFT program was found to increase the likelihood of smoking, drinking, and enabling the individual four to five times more prone to hospitalization. Implementing these strategies and educating the public on the matter will reduce the chances of an elder adult going to the hospital and therefore reducing healthcare costs.

Notwithstanding, there are many obstacles facing this initiative.

The main challenge for the SHIFT program will be the encouragement of older adult employment. First the employer may believe that the older adult is less productive than a younger hire, or may not want to pay the premium for workers compensation to the employee if he/she was to get hurt on the job. From the outlined reasons above, for example when the Government of Nova Scotia stated it “will work with employers” it could be assumed that some sort of training cost to mentor employers during the process will be a part of the program, or potentially a subsidy for said employment, however this is yet to be confirmed.

Should there be a subsidy for the employment of the elderly, this would increase the number of older adult hires, and would limit the hiring of younger employees and immigrant workers as well. Although this does improve the cost efficiency of hiring for the employer, one could argue it may not be as effective as hiring a younger, and more energetic and motivated individual. This would create an uncompetitive hiring process, limiting the number of new participants added to the labor force 15 years of age and older looking for work but are unable to acquire employment. This could factor into an increase in the unemployment rate.

The SHIFT program will be a positive step forward for the economy in Nova Scotia by better involving and demonstrating the importance older adults have in our economic development, in addition to the wisdom and experience they can share to improve our quality of living through labor participation, volunteering, and mentoring. However, and arguably most importantly, it will be of great interest to see how the government will maneuver around the many challenges this program will yield, in addition to implementing the necessary change.

Canada’s Medical Marijuana Monopoly

Canada is currently transitioning between the old method of accessing medical marijuana, known as the Medical Marijuana Access Program (MMAP) and Health Canada’s new Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR). The new system puts an end to personal licenses that allow patients to grow and possess the drug, as well as the supply available from Health Canada.

Instead, the government will grant licenses to entrepreneurs hoping to cash-in on producing and supplying the controversial medicine in a ‘free market system.’

As of 1 October 2013, Health Canada stopped accepting applications for personal-use production licenses and designated-person production licenses from those in need of medical marijuana. 1 April 2014 marks the date when the new program comes into effect, because all licenses to grow and possess medical marijuana granted under the old program will expire, rendering previous activities illegal. Furthermore, Health Canada will no longer sell medical marijuana to patients, instead forcing them to obtain it from licensed producers through the new MMPR.

Amongst a variety of complex debates regarding medical marijuana, it is worth looking at the consequences of the new regulations’ speedy implementation. With less than seven months until the new regulations are in full effect–forcing patients to rely solely on licensed producers for legal marijuana–Health Canada has only authorized three of the reported 156 applications.

The new regulations do not limit the number of producers approved, although, each additional producer requires additional government inspection and enforcement costs, countering the proposed decrease in program costs. Furthermore, the new system permits licensed producers to set their prices without any government restrictions, raising concerns for patients.

Health Canada’s current price for medical marijuana per gram is $5, far lower than the $9 to $13 average projected by Prairie Plant Systems, the first producer approved under the new MMPR. Despite an expected decrease in the price, long-run projections estimate that prices will stabilize at around $7 to $9 per gram.

Several medical marijuana patients suffer from medical conditions that prevent them from working and, therefore, a price increase is untenable. For these patients, the price increase may cause the drug to become inaccessible through legal means.

For the time being, licensed producers are looking toward 1 April 2014 in anticipation of major profits. In contrast, however, patients are dreading the new regulations, which will eat away at their income, risk illegal access, and endure unnecessary pain.

Competition in the free market system is essential for reducing prices. How many companies gain access to this industry and how long it will take them to become productive and drive prices down, however, is unknown: the government is phasing out the old program before newly licensed producers are prepared to provide medical marijuana at a price comparable to Health Canada’s former standard.

Health Canada has already set a definite timeline but should hasten their approval of producer applicants. The more companies granted licenses, the better off patients would be. Although efficient production is unlikely within the allotted time, the sooner companies obtain licenses the sooner prices will fall.

The soon-to-be completed transition is moving at a pace set to leave users in dire circumstances, while licensed producers begin raking in the profits of a marijuana monopoly.

Rachel Lowe is a 2013-2014 Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ Student Fellow. The views expressed are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the Institute