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Perspectives — June 18 – 21, 2018
Perspectives — June 18 – 21, 2018
June 27, 2018
OPINION

Last week at the Senate: The Cannabis Act and a new senator.

Government

After months of intensive study and debate on an array of legislation, the Senate has risen for the summer with an impressive record.

The increasingly independent institution has improved a quarter of government bills with amendments this session, garnering support from the elected house on key changes to laws on transportation, impaired driving and the legalization of cannabis, among others.

In total, 13 out of 51 government bills that have become law this session were successfully amended by the Senate. In contrast, a single bill was amended by the Senate in the previous session under the former government.

The Senate is returning to its roots as an institution focused on sober second thought. It’s clear that increased independence is working in the best interest of Canadians.

Improvements are not limited to amendments. The government has also committed to studying the effects of new legislation in the wake of Senate concerns.

Government bills this session have all been adopted without limiting debate through closure, providing a broader discussion that drew on perspectives from coast to coast to coast – and among a wide range of interested Canadians. In the case of the Cannabis Act, the Senate agreed to an innovative model that created a timetable, including debate organized by theme leading up to a final vote.

Organized debate on legislation to legalize cannabis created more predictability, allowing Canadians to follow along as the Senate helped shape this important new law. It’s a model worth repeating when the Senate returns in the fall.


Opposition

As the session comes to an end in the Senate, I wish to reflect on the dedicated work that has taken place over the past few months. Our strong Conservative team has done diligent work reviewing the legislation brought before us. We remain concerned that the Trudeau government is not ready for the legalization of marijuana.

While the government claims that the need for legalization is to protect children and youth, we believe that the government is failing to properly safeguard Canadians.

Trudeau ministers are still improvising on this file, at a cost to the health and safety of youth. Following the legalization of marijuana, Canadians will be the ones having to face the consequences of the lack of preparedness by the Liberal government.

With only weeks away to increased access to legal marijuana, the government has not made a substantial effort to educate Canadians on the dangers of marijuana consumption, especially for children and youth. Nor has the Trudeau government done mass education campaigns that are culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate for indigenous peoples. Implications at the border also remain unclear.

As a teacher, the Prime Minister should know that education doesn’t happen overnight. The government has failed to educate and protect Canadians on the impact of legalizing marijuana.

I understand that Prime Minister Trudeau ran on this election campaign promise, but let’s be clear: the Prime Minister will be responsible for the consequences of his government’s lack of preparedness and lack of public education.


Independent Senate Liberals

This week, after much work and deliberation, the Senate rose for the summer.

We accomplished a great deal over the last several months, reviewing legislation, conducting committee studies, and advocating on behalf of our provinces, territories, and regions.  The last few days before adjournment were particularly intense, but by working collaboratively, we completed our work and set the stage for the fall, when we will resume debate on bills and other matters still on the Order Paper.   

On behalf of the Independent Senate Liberals, I wish a relaxing and enjoyable summer to senators’ staff, to Senate administration staff, building services staff, the Parliamentary Protective Service – everyone who makes the Senate function as it should. Thank you for your hard work; our jobs would be even more challenging without you.  

Most of us are going back to our homes, but we will be back here again in mid-September. My advice to everyone is to spend more time at home in the months ahead – rest and get reacquainted with your families and neighbours.  But do not hesitate to tell people about the work that we are doing, because it is good work and an important part of our parliamentary system. Bonnes vacances, and we look forward to seeing you all in September.


Independent Senators Group

Four months have passed since I was called to represent Ontario in the Senate of Canada. Joining the Independent Senators Group (ISG) was the first decision of many I have made since being appointed.

Subsequently, I have spoken in the Senate Chamber on 4-H in Canada, the importance of fairs and exhibitions across Canada, and the induction of J.J. Morrison into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame.  I also highlighted in the Chamber the upcoming Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games, which takes place annually in August.  My inaugural speech was related to Budget 2018 legislation and how it will affect Canadian primary agriculture.

I have attended many committee meetings including Agriculture and Forestry, National Finance, the Charitable Sector and Social Affairs, Science and Technology. I even managed to play a role in, and support an amendment which was accepted by the government regarding the definition of cannabis accessory in the Cannabis Act as it relates to the use and sale of items like fertilizer, soil, pots, growing and gardening equipment.

It has been a whirlwind few months but I am feeling more comfortable with my new responsibilities and roles here in Ottawa.  I am looking forward to the many opportunities and challenges ahead of me as we work together in the Senate Chamber in the formation of laws and principles of public policy that affect us all. 

It is my honour and privilege to represent the interests of the people of Ontario and Canada in the Senate of Canada.