Govern­ment re­jects 13 Sen­ate changes to pot bill

The Western Star - - OBITUARIES / CANADA -

The fed­eral govern­ment set the stage Wed­nes­day for a pos­si­ble show­down with the Sen­ate over le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis af­ter it re­jected 13 amend­ments approved by the up­per house — in­clud­ing one rec­og­niz­ing the author­ity of prov­inces to ban home cul­ti­va­tion of mar­i­juana plants if they choose.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau used the oc­ca­sion to call on Con­ser­va­tives to cease us­ing the Sen­ate to stall Bill C-45, the leg­is­la­tion that would lift Canada’s 95-year pro­hi­bi­tion on recre­ational pot.

“An­drew Scheer, the Con­ser­va­tive leader, has been telling his Sen­ate cau­cus — the sen­a­tors that he still con­trols — to play games, to slow this down, to in­ter­fere with the will of the House,’’ he said.

“It’s time that he stopped us­ing his sen­a­tors this way.’’

But it will be in­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors ap­pointed by Trudeau — whose con­tin­ued sup­port for the le­gal­iza­tion bill is cru­cial to the govern­ment’s plans to be­gin re­tail sales of recre­ational cannabis this sum­mer — who will de­cide the bill’s fate. And they were miffed Wed­nes­day that the govern­ment nixed all the amend­ments of con­se­quence approved by the Sen­ate, while ac­cept­ing 27 largely tech­ni­cal changes and tweak­ing two oth­ers.

Now they must de­cide whether they’ll in­sist on some or all of the re­jected amend­ments, which would mean bounc­ing the bill back to the House of Com­mons.

“It’s our con­sti­tu­tional right to main­tain our veto and send a bill back to the House,’’ said Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, leader of the in­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors’ group.

Still, Woo said it’s “too early to talk about po­lit­i­cal show­downs.’’

In­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors will want to weigh a va­ri­ety of fac­tors, he added, in­clud­ing ar­gu­ments that they should show def­er­ence to the will of the elected House of Com­mons and to a govern­ment that was elected on a spe­cific prom­ise to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana. More­over, he said they will have to weigh the loss of the amend­ments — par­tic­u­larly the one on home cul­ti­va­tion — against their sup­port for le­gal­iza­tion in prin­ci­ple as a way to re­strict ac­cess to young peo­ple and marginal­ize the ex­ist­ing black mar­ket in cannabis.

“The amend­ment is im­por­tant to us, don’t get me wrong,’’ Woo said. “We’re very dis­ap­pointed not to have it.’’

But he added: “We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity as sen­a­tors to not make de­ci­sions based on a uni-fac­toral cal­cu­lus, based on emo­tion, based on what the last lob­by­ist said to us, cer­tainly not based on pique or kind of anger that the govern­ment did not ac­cept our amend­ments.’’

CP PHOTO

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau makes his way to the House of Com­mons for ques­tion pe­riod on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa on Wed­nes­day.

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