Pot talk on the agenda as justice ministers meet
VANCOUVER — marijuana legalization is topping a packed agenda as Justice minister Jody Wilson-raybould sits down with her provincial and territorial counterparts for two days of meetings in Vancouver.
b.c. Solicitor General mike Farnworth said he hopes the gathering, which began thursday, offers more clarity around how the federal government intends to make good on its ambitious timeline to legalize pot by next summer.
“Obviously, i think the July time frame is a challenge,” he said. “but right now that’s the timeline, that’s the time frame that we’re working towards.”
Farnworth said he also wants to get a better sense of what other provinces are arranging because of the importance of ensuring certain marijuana laws are consistent across the country.
Ontario Justice minister yasir Naqvi described the timeline as tight but added that his province is working with the federal government on preparing for legalization.
the federal government has come under fire for what appears to be a hands-off approach to regulating the sale and policing of marijuana once it becomes legal on Canada day 2018.
brian patterson, head of the public safety group Ontario Safety league, said he is shocked by the federal government’s commitment to what is an unrealistic, politically motivated deadline that will put Canadians at risk.
the group released a position paper earlier this month titled “too Far, too Fast” urging the government to slow down and consult with police forces, health agencies and provincial governments before introducing legislation.
“before you open the pool you better check the chlorine levels and know what’s going on. and we’re just opening the pools because it’s Canada day,” patterson said.
“Spitballing in the dark seems to be the method being used to stick to that date.”
Ontario became the first province to make public its plans for legalized cannabis last week, unveiling a regulatory regime that restricts sales to its own liquor board operated stores.
representatives from several police forces warned the house of Commons health committee earlier this week that there was zero chance police would be ready in time to enforce new laws for legalized pot. public Safety minister ralph Goodale responded by describing the government’s timetable as reasonable.
youth health experts are urging the federal government to develop extensive prevention and publiceducation campaigns focusing on the harmful effect of marijuana on adolescent brains, warning that stronger regulations alone will be ineffective in deterring kids from smoking pot.
Other topics up for discussion at the two-day meeting are how the justice system deals with hiv non-disclosure and the fallout from the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision that puts a time limit on how long it takes to prosecute a criminal charges.
WASHINGTON — the U.S. is seeking to insert a so-called sunset clause into a new Nafta deal, a controversial proposal that would automatically terminate the agreement after five years unless all three member countries agree to extend it.
that idea has been quietly floated for months by U.S. officials who finally made it public thursday. it prompted swift resistance. Canadian and mexican officials brushed it off almost as soon as it was publicly revealed, calling it a bad idea that would create economic instability and scare businesses away from long-term investments.
the priority was announced by U.S. president donald trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur ross. he confirmed the U.S. will seek some automatic-termination clause to ensure the agreement can be constantly re-evaluated and improved.
“the five-year thing is a real thing that would force a systematic reexamination,” ross told a forum organized by the website politico.
“you’d have a forum for trying to fix things.”
ross said U.S. trade czar robert lighthizer, who is leading the Nafta talks for his country, agrees with him that it’s a good idea. but ross conceded it’s unclear the other Nafta countries will ever accept it.
he reiterated his goal of reaching a deal by the end of the year. afterwards, he said, it will become harder to nail down a deal in 2018 as mexico and the U.S. have national elections, the U.S. fast-track law is up for renewal and Canada has provincial elections. if there’s no deal, he said the president is serious that he might terminate Nafta.
“it’s a very real thing,” ross said of the president’s threat.
“but it is not the preferred option.”
The five-year thing is a real thing that would force a systematic re-examination.”
Wilbur Ross, Commerce secretary
the idea of an automatic sunset appears to be a non-starter.
Shortly after ross left the stage, the U.S. ambassadors of Canada and mexico appeared for a panel discussion. both strongly rejected the idea, and said the U.S. business community would never accept it either.
Canada’s david macnaughton told reporters he has been hearing this idea for months in closed-door chats. he said he has never understood the logic behind it, since Nafta already has a clause allowing any country to withdraw if it really wants to.
but an automatic-sunset clause is designed for something you intend to end, like a law designed to expire, macnaughton said. that’s the opposite of a trade agreement — whose inherent goal, he said, is to project long-term predictability.
“One of reasons you do (a trade agreement) is to create an environment within which business can make investments. (in) many of those investments people will look to 20 years’, 25 years’ payback,” macnaughton said. “if you have to do it every five years, the pricing of political risk is very high.”
he illustrated his point with a more homespun metaphor: “if every marriage had a five-year sunset clause on it, i think our divorce rate would be a heck of a lot higher than it is.” mexico’s ambassador agreed. “Ourviewsexactly,”saidgeronimo Gutierrez. “it would probably have very detrimental consequences for the business community of the United States, mexico and Canada... Certainty is the key word here.”
Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-raybould, centre left, is flanked by Deputy Minister of Justice Nathalie Drouin, left, and Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley, right, at the start of a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety, in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday.