Blair to Senate on pot bill: delay is unacceptable
OTTAWA – The Liberals are aiming to pass the marijuana legalization bill in the House of Commons this week, sending it off for some sober second thought, and the government’s pot point man, Bill Blair, has a message for the Senate: delay is unacceptable.
Once the bill passes in the House, it'll be off to the upper chamber for further study and -- as has become a reoccurring trend in the Senate -- there are rumblings some senators may be uninhibited by the government’s plan to have the law in place come July 2018.
Blair, who is parliamentary secretary to both the health and justice ministers, said on CTV’s Question Period that while he is keen to get the bill before senators, he hopes they are mindful of the impact of undue delay because the current illegal regime is “failing” Canadian youth.
"The Senate will bring its sober reflection to this bill and I think it’s really important to help us get this right. But we also expect to work as diligently as everyone else in the country has and in recognition that delay is unacceptable," Blair said.
Part of the former Toronto police chief’s job is stick-handling Bill C-45 through Parliament, keeping in mind the government’s self-imposed deadline of legal pot by July 2018. He wasn’t able to say if the government thinks they’ll be able to see it pass before Christmas, when Parliament is scheduled to break for over a month.
In the House on Nov. 9, when reading out what the government plans to put on the House agenda for this coming week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government “will be disposing of Bill C-45 at report stage and third reading.”
Government House Leader Bardish Chagger’s office said they "hope" the debate will be concluded by the end of the week. Once third reading debate concludes, there is a final vote in the Commons to send the bill to the Senate.
Liberals 'arrogantly' pushing pot law through: Tory critic
Provinces and police forces are among the stakeholders that have raised serious concerns about being prepared to implement and enforce a legal regime in time.
Conservative health critic Colin Carrie is predicting that the Liberals wanting to "arrogantly" push the bill forward could result in “horrible consequences in court,” he said on CTV’s Question Period.
New Democrat health critic Don Davies said a rollout of this magnitude requires the federal government to work closely with all stakeholders, and take seriously the calls to punt the pot deadline down the line by a little while.
Though, Blair said there has been plenty of communication with the provinces.
"Our senior officials have met with the provinces and territories every three weeks for almost two years," said Blair.
Committee trims pot plans:
The House has been debating and studying the bill since it was introduced in April. The House Health Committee passed a few amendments to the bill this fall, including cutting out the height restriction on homegrown marijuana plants.
Despite a wide range of other serious concerns about the legislation -- from the impact on youth to the bill staying silent on edibles -- no other substantive amendments were passed.
The Liberal majority defeated the amendments proposed by the NDP at committee, while the Conservative members voted against all proposed amendments as they are opposed to marijuana becoming legal.
The committee did make more than 20 other mainly technical changes to Bill C-45, including adding the definition of a medical emergency as it relates to a psychoactive substance, for the purpose of exempting people from any potential charges if they call for help.
Other tweaks made were to the wording around promotion and ticketing, and it makes a related amendment to the Non-smokers’ Health Act, to address concerns around marijuana in the workplace. The legislation was also changed to be reviewed and reported back to Parliament three years after coming into force.
It's this revised version that MPs will be debating in the week ahead.