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Perspectives - February 27 - March 1, 2018
Perspectives - February 27 - March 1, 2018
March 7, 2018
OPINION

Last week at the Senate: debate on cannabis legislation, reactions to the 2018 federal budget and celebrating retiring Senator Charlie Watt.

Government

Last month, I participated in a fascinating and informative visit to Canopy Growth’s licensed cannabis production facility in Smiths Falls, ON, along with seven of my Senate colleagues. Organized by the sponsor of Bill C-45, Senator Tony Dean, these tours gave senators the opportunity to see a real-life example of legal cannabis production as we continue our study of the Cannabis Act.

With 168,000 sq. ft. of licensed production space, this is a very sophisticated facility. I was impressed by the strong regulations that already exist to ensure quality control and security. It is reassuring to know that legalized cannabis will benefit from these structures, with which governments and other authorities have a great deal of experience.

It was also clear that the facility is having a positive impact on the local economy. Located in a former Hershey chocolate factory, Canopy Growth has brought jobs and investment to Smiths Falls and is expanding into other rural communities in Canada. Across the country, the company employs over 700 employees and has 400 positions still available.

This is just one example of the preparations being made outside of government as Canada moves toward legalizing cannabis. While senators take part in the important debate on Bill C-45 in the Chamber, it is useful for us to learn from companies and regulators with existing experience, and to be aware of their many efforts to prepare for legalization of cannabis.


Opposition

Liberal Budget 2018 was another missed opportunity for Justin Trudeau and the Canadian economy. The world economy is roaring but Trudeau is failing to turn this opportunity into results for Canadians. Trudeau has failed to take concrete measures to accelerate getting our landlocked resources to world markets, which would generate an estimated $46 billion. In just three years, the Trudeau Government has piled $60 billion onto the national debt. The deficit for this fiscal year is $18 billion, triple what Justin Trudeau promised during the 2015 election. According to Finance Canada, the budget will not be balanced until 2045, by then racking up an additional $450 billion of debt to be paid back by future generations.

We see every day that Justin Trudeau is failing middle class Canadians, the very people he claims to help. A recent study from the Fraser Institute found that income taxes have been raised on more than 90% of middle class families who are facing higher taxes all since the Liberals came to power in 2015. In the first two years that the Conservatives came to power they paid down $37 billion to reduce the national debt to $457.6 billion and ran responsible deficits to respond successfully to the largest economic downturn since the great depression followed by a return to a balanced budget.

Since the Liberals took office, Canadians are getting failed policies: More taxes, debt, and out of control spending that doesn’t offer solutions for hardworking Canadians.


Senate Liberals

This past week, we said farewell to one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, the Honourable Charlie Watt, who will be retiring later this month.

Over his 34 years in the chamber, Senator Watt’s commitment to protecting and enhancing the rights of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, especially the Inuit communities of Nunavik in northern Quebec, has been on full display. He was one of the driving forces behind the 2009 pilot project for simultaneous interpretation services in Inuktitut so that he could speak directly to his constituents from the Senate floor.

Senator Watt also argued strongly for a Special Senate Committee on the Arctic. Though that committee is just beginning its work, its departing chair has given it an excellent start.

It is also fitting to highlight his extensive work documenting the traditional Inuit trails in the Canadian Arctic. The research he commissioned, entitled Inuit Trails and Arctic Occupancy, resulted in a unique piece of work, the first to compile and analyze historical maps of the Inuit occupancy of the Arctic.

Senator Watt’s work on behalf of indigenous peoples will continue beyond the Senate. He was elected last month to serve as President of Makivik Corporation in Nunavik, which was established to administer the funds flowing from the James Bay and Northern Quebec land claims agreement - virtually all aspects of life in Nunavik, from mining partnerships and transportation to education and social development. He will do well, and we wish him all the best in his new endeavor.


Independent Senators Group

Times are changing.

The legalization of cannabis is a hot topic. The debate we are having as a society is healthy and it comes at a particularly good time for the Senate.

I am especially excited that, as a parliamentary institution, the Senate has decided to change the way it works in order to engage in a thorough and objective “second look” that Canadians expect of us.

First, I want to thank my colleague, Senator Tony Dean, the sponsor of this bill, who has shown innovative leadership by proposing a new, thoughtful, cooperative and transparent way of considering this legislation. The challenges are numerous, especially with regard to our youth.

Second, I truly believe that the time has come for us, as a society, to modernize our traditional way of implementing societal changes of this kind — and by that I mean the constitutional division of powers. Now, more than ever, the federal government no longer has the monopoly on good ideas.

I am a long-time supporter of the principle of subsidiarity to guide our actions. In a nutshell, let’s make the effective level of government responsible for service delivery and regulation, while respecting its jurisdiction. The finance minister’s willingness to transfer most of the tax revenues from the sale of cannabis to the provinces is a good first step, but we must go further.

Every community in our country is unique. Each holds the key to legalizing cannabis under the best possible conditions, for the benefit of all Canadians — especially our youth.

As senators, we have a duty to carefully consider the repercussions of legalizing cannabis so that we can make an informed decision.