The Senate of Canada will is scheduled to address questions in relation to cannabis legalization Tuesday, January 31. The discussion is in response to questions raised last December by the Honourable Senator Carignan, P.C., QC, who asked a series of questions about legalization, including looking at the costs associated with legalizing, issues with impaired driving, and who the government has been consulting with on the subject thus far.
Asked on Dec 14, 2016, one day after the public release of the Task Force’s recommendations on the subject, many of the questions are addressed or answered in the Task Force report. The extensive report specifically refers to issues like impaired driving and the research behind these issues, as well as the groups, public organizations, individuals, and governments asked to be consulted on the various aspects of legalization.
Carignan’s more specific questions in regard to cost projections associated with legalization are interesting and important questions to raise, but will be difficult to answer with any certainty for some time. Asking for specific a “breakdown of costs estimated by the government for each of the first three years” in various aspects like health care and justice and safety are tall orders for any immediate consideration.
“In my home province, in the Lower Mainland there are many illegal marijuana shops, medical marijuana shops. I see them everywhere I go. They are quite visible on every main street that I drive in Vancouver, and it's actually quite shocking where some are located, in comparison to schools and where children would gather.” -Yonah Martin, deputy Conservative leader in the Senate.
The last time the Senate discussed legalization, October 2016, it was again a PC Senator, this time from British Columbia, Yonah Martin, who also brought up concerns with impaired driving, as well as dispensaries. Yonah is the deputy Conservative leader in the Senate.
“In my home province, in the Lower Mainland there are many illegal marijuana shops, medical marijuana shops. I see them everywhere I go. They are quite visible on every main street that I drive in Vancouver, and it's actually quite shocking where some are located, in comparison to schools and where children would gather.”
The Senate of 105 seats is currently dominated by 40 Conservative Party Senators. Another 35 are part of an Independent Senators Group, 19 part of ‘Independent Liberals” and seven non-affiliated seats. Four seats are currently vacant.
The Independent Liberals, or the Senate Liberal Caucus or Senate Independent Liberal Caucus, are independent Liberal Senators. Senate Liberals were part of the parliamentary Liberal Party caucus until January 2014 when Justin Trudeau removed all Senators from the caucus with the purpose of their becoming independent. The independent senators still sit as a group and refer to themselves as the Senate Liberal Caucus.
The amount of Conservatives in the Senate is important to the legalization process because any new legislation, as the Liberals have promised to introduce in the Spring, will eventually need to be passed by both the House and Senate before receiving Royal Assent and becoming law.
The Conservatives have traditionally opposed legalization and continue to press the government on their plans to legalize. It’s likely that these sorts of questions in the Senate will only increase as the issue moves to the front burner in 2017. Pressuring the Liberal Government on the issue will likely be an important political wedge for the Conservatives and even the NDP in the upcoming election.
Carignan, who is bringing the issue up Tuesday, is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate of Canada, appointed to the Senate in 2009 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper.
He recently said “without a doubt, the biggest public policy issue facing Canada is the legalization of marijuana. It will have enormous consequences at every level and it is an issue we must follow very closely.”
Replies to written questions are not always answered. When "Questions on the Order Paper" is called, a Parliamentary Secretary, usually the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, rises in his or her place to announce which question(s) the Government intends to answer on that particular day.
From the government's website:
The Government may answer written questions in one of two ways:
The Parliamentary Secretary may simply indicate to the House the number (or numbers) of the question(s) being answered. The text of the full response is published in the Debates of that day or the Parliamentary Secretary may read the reply, if an oral response has been requested; or
In the case of questions requiring lengthy or more complex responses, the Government may request that the House make a certain question an "order for return"; that is, the House may order the Government to table a report or return that will serve as a response to the question. The return is tabled in the House and becomes a sessional paper.
The failure of the Government to respond to a written question within 45 days is automatically referred to a standing committee. Within five sitting days of the referral, the Chair of the committee must call a meeting of the committee to consider the Government’s failure to respond. The Member in question may submit one further question to the Order Paper for each question referred to a committee.
Alternatively, the Member who placed the question on the Order Paper may give notice of his or her intention to transfer the question and raise the subject matter during the Adjournment Proceedings. The order referring the matter to committee is then dropped.
Featured image via Wiki Commons