The provincial government is making a wise move by joining a legal consortium to recover its expenditures on smoking-related illnesses from big tobacco. It simply makes sense to take advantage of the expertise developed by those already pursuing those costs in other jurisdictions. And partnering with other provinces in legal representation should also be cheaper for Island taxpayers.
That’s not to say this legal pursuit will be inexpensive. According to the director of legal and court services for the province, an ad hoc committee is currently working on compiling records from as far back as the 1950s, when tobacco companies first discovered the damaging health effects of tobacco use. It’ll probably take two to three years of document gathering, he said, before the case is ready to move forward.
Such a labour-intensive task, over that period of time, can’t help but be costly in terms of resources, but hopefully it will reap dividends.
The Island government has retained New Brunswick’s legal consortium to represent its claim. The consortium is headed by two national law firms, Bennett Jones and Siskinds, and is also representing Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia in similar actions.
Specifically, P.E.I. is seeking to sue Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. and JTI-Macdonald Corp, among 26 tobacco firms and other affiliate companies. If the province succeeds, it could be awarded hundreds of millions of dollars.
The possibility of recovering such expenditure shouldn’t be ignored by any financially strapped government. And by joining a consortium already equipped with the research and expertise in this field, P.E.I. is increasing its chances of winning its case.