PM confronts marijuana issue in YouTube interview
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, March 16, 2010 10:28PM EDT
After a mysterious delay of more than an hour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took another step into the world of YouTube on Tuesday evening, with a pre-taped interview that addressed a range of issues including Canada's marijuana laws.
Harper dismissed the idea of legalizing the drug during the interview, which was moderated by Patrick Pichette, Google's chief financial officer.
"I guess as a parent, this is the last thing I want to see from my kids," Harper said. "I don't meet many people who've led a drug-free life that regret it. And I've met a lot that haven't, and regretted it."
Buying marijuana, he added, means supporting "international cartels that are involved in unimaginable violence, intimidation, social disaster and catastrophe all across the world."
The interview was based on questions submitted last week through a YouTube web page decorated with an image of Harper sandwiched between Parliament Hill and the Canadian flag.
Those who visited the site could vote on whether they liked or disliked submitted questions and, as of Tuesday evening, watch the taped interview.
Internet users submitted nearly 2,000 questions, many of which had to do with marijuana use. Other questions addressed law enforcement or oil prices.
Representatives of Google, which owns YouTube, chose which questions Harper was asked.
The interview was originally scheduled to air at 7 p.m. ET but was eventually broadcast about an hour and 15 minutes later.
The delay prompted a series of barbs from bloggers and devotees of online social networking sites. On Twitter, users quipped that the prime minister had prorogued his own interview. Others joked that he must have mistakenly logged on to the infamous online forum ChatRoulette instead of YouTube.
By 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the interview had been viewed 305 times. More than 80 people had rated it. The average rating was 2.5 stars out of 5.
In his first response, Harper defended the Conservative government's economic recovery plan. Next, he tackled Canada's foreign aid commitment to Africa. Canada's foreign-aid spending will increase 8 per cent over the next year, before flat-lining the following year, he said.
"We're in a position in Canada that we can maintain these strong levels of international support without having to cut them to reduce our deficit," Harper said. "That's what we want to continue to do."
Later, the prime minister again denied allegations that his government failed to address instances in where prisoners were mistreated by Afghan authorities after they were delivered by Canadian troops.
"When problems have arisen, and we have had instances where there has been basic evidence of mistreatment at the hands of the Afghan government, then corrective actions have been taken," Harper said during the 40-minute interview. "But that has been relatively infrequently."
"A lot of loose accusations have been thrown around, but really no evidence."
The prime minister reiterated his support for creating an elected Senate, and said he would continue to appoint new senators in the absence of such elections.
The interview included a number of other questions on climate change, the seal hunt, post-secondary student loans and Quebec sovereignty, among other issues.
Some of the questions submitted to the web page had a satirical bent, but were not posed to the prime minister. In one, a cartoon of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin inquired about Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament.
"You are what we call in Alaska, a pansy," the cartoon Palin said. "Is it a Canadian tradition for Canadian leaders to run away and hide? If a president did what you did, there would be rioting in the streets. How did you get away with it?"
The web page was 14th on YouTube's weekly popularity rankings for Canada. It edged out a page from toilet-paper brand Cottonnelle, but was well behind another that's owned by potato chip-maker Doritos Canada.
Harper has been criticized for avoiding questions from the media by speaking directly to Canadians through advertisements or other avenues.
His YouTube appearance follows a similar offering from U.S. President Barack Obama, who took questions on the popular video-sharing website relating to his State of the Union Address in late January.