Cannabis changes coming

Last week, the Liberal government introduced the much anticipated marijuana legalization bill, technically known as Bill C-45 The Cannabis Act.

The Liberals clearly campaigned on legalizing marijuana and I have heard from several citizens who indicated this was one of the primary reasons they voted Liberal in the last election.

I mention this point as I believe the government does have a democratic mandate to move forward with this legislation.

From a quick overview, this bill takes a very similar approach that I used with my wine bill that removes federal barriers, but still allows provinces to enact and adopt their own rules and regulations with respect to marijuana legislation.

I will credit the Liberals for using this approach as it allows provinces to individually respond to this legislation in whatever manner they believe is most workable.

So what is proposed? Bill C-45 proposes a number of measures related to the legalization of marijuana, some of these include:

that cannabis can only be sold to citizens age 18 or older although individual provinces can raise the legal age limit if desired. 

It is further proposed that adults would legally be able to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis in public, and to grow up to four plants per household at a maximum height of one metre from a legal seed or seedling.

However it should also be pointed out that until the new law comes into force, cannabis remains illegal in Canada, except for medical purposes.

With the proposed legalization also comes new proposed changes to penalties and enforcement with significant changes to impaired driving enforcement. A few examples of this include allowing the police to demand that a suspected driver provide an oral fluid sample on demand.

New regulations would also be introduced with respect to restricting the THC level per millilitre (ml) of blood not unlike current restrictions related to blood alcohol content. There is also a provision to allow for mandatory roadside screening even if an officer does not have a suspicion of drug or alcohol use.

Prison sentences of up to 14 years are also proposed for illegal distribution or sale of marijuana. It is also proposed that penalties of up to 14 years in prison may result for giving or selling marijuana to minors. These are just a few of the many changes that are proposed in Bill C-45 with respect to penalties and enforcement.

As is often the case with any proposed new legislation there are still many unanswered questions, a few of these include concerns from landlords as typically tenant insurance will be void if marijuana is grown in a rental property.

Border crossings is another topic as the United States may refuse to allow entry to a citizen who has used marijuana. Policing and identifying legal marijuana from illegally sourced marijuana is also a serious concern as criminal organizations could potentially undercut legally sourced marijuana with higher THC content black market cannabis.

There is also a concern that many cannabis vendors currently defying the existing laws may not comply with the new regulations and restrictions either thus ensuring that enforcement remains a challenge that many municipal and provincial police forces will be burdened with the costs of policing.

My thoughts? Many details will need to be worked out by individual provinces for a more detailed understanding of how the full implementation will occur that will be an important part of this discussion.

One concern I do have is that the Canadian Medical Association has stated that even occasional marijuana use can cause serious negative psychological effects on brain development up to the age 25.

As a result of this medical evidence I believe a substantial public education campaign will be needed to better educate citizens on the mental health risks that marijuana legalization presents to children and young adults. 

I will continue to provide further updates on this topic as they become available.

I welcome your comments and questions on marijuana legalization and can be reached at [email protected]  or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.


PM breaks another promise

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals have ticked off another item on their bucket list of broken promises.

They set the stage for the latest on Tuesday night in Ottawa. With only three hours notice, the Liberal government invited parliamentarians for a technical presentation on the upcoming 2017 Budget Implementation Act, also known as the BIA.

Once I arrived for the presentation, it became very clear the reasons why. In spite of promising Canadians that the Liberal government would not use omnibus legislation, the new Liberal BIA is a textbook example of an omnibus bill.

An omnibus bill is legislation that seeks to amend, repeal or enact several Acts, and is often characterized by the fact that it has a multiple number of separate initiatives that may be only loosely connected to the actual intent of the original bill, in this case the budget.

As an example, in this Liberal BIA, it is proposed to weaken the independence of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (known in Ottawa as the PBO), a measure not related to the spending of funds outlined in the budget but rather a measure by the Liberals to weaken scrutiny of the spending.

A disappointing but not surprising result given that the Liberals have been embarrassed by the PBO’s previous reports that famously exposed Liberal efforts to manipulate and hide the fact that they inherited a balanced budget from the previous Conservative government or the recent PBO report revealing the Liberal`s slow and disjointed infrastructure spending. 

Critics oppose omnibus bills arguing that with so much widely varied content an omnibus bill cannot receive the required parliamentary scrutiny for the many varied clauses. 

Another criticism is that some measures within an omnibus bill may be widely supported but other measures may be strongly opposed. In this case, weakening the independence of the PBO would never stand as a single bill however it can more easily slip through in an omnibus bill where it will receive less scrutiny.

While the criticism against omnibus bills is certainly valid and should not be overlooked, I believe there is also another perspective that is deserving of consideration. A government in challenging economic times has an obligation to enact as many measures as it believes is reasonably required to continue to build a stronger and more prosperous Canada. 

Within any legislative or parliamentary precinct there is a limited amount of time available that can also be subject to opposition delay tactics.

Government`s propose many of these measures because it believes they are beneficial to the citizens it collectively represents. In my view it is not unreasonable to use an omnibus bill for the purposes of enacting broad based legislation in areas supporting the economy, public safety, the environment or trade as a few examples.

In this case, I am not faulting the Liberal government for using an omnibus budget bill such as this. Where I do take issue with the Liberals is that they committed to Canadians they would not use omnibus bills.

They promised they would outright change the House rules to technically eliminate them.

It was the Liberals choice to promise this during the election and their choice to table such a bill, regardless whether our rules allow for them or not.

As with the promise to enact electoral reform or to return to a balanced budget by 2019, Canadians are witnessing a disturbing pattern of broken promises that were made to Canadians by this Liberal Government with little to no regard for keeping those promises.

For a government that promised “better was always possible," I would submit a pattern of broken promises only serves to undermine our democratic process and increase cynicism among voters, and on that note, I believe this Liberal government can do better.

My question this week: Do you support the limited use of omnibus bills or should they be prohibited as the Liberals promised?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.  

Bombardier still taking flak

The major theme in Ottawa is still Bombardier after it was reported that six company executives were to receive $32 million in bonuses.

As many of you might recall, the Quebec-based company received an interest-free $372.5 million loan from taxpayers in February.

This loan was controversial in large part because Bombardier executives had stated publicly that the company did not need it having secured adequate funds elsewhere.

Controversy over the $32 million in bonus payments did cause Bombardier to defer half the amount to 2020 if certain financial targets are met.

As my critics like to point out in recent letters to the editor, opposing is not the same as proposing an alternative. It is an important point and one that I agree with.

In this case, could the bonuses be avoided until the company repays the $372.5 million loan?

The answer is yes.

When the former Conservative government provided assistance to Air Canada, it came with terms and conditions.

Some conditions mandated that executive compensation would be frozen at the rate of inflation and that any additional bonuses would be prohibited. Air Canada was also banned from issuing dividends or allowing share repurchases.

The debate in the Bombardier case is that the $372.5 million s interest free, with no similar terms of restrictions. In fact, at the same time Bombardier receives this loan, it has also announced 7,500 people would be laid off, 2,000 of them in Canada.

It was further revealed in Question Period that the Liberal government has yet to sign off on the final paperwork for this loan and still has the option to add similar restrictions.

My question this week pertains to government bailouts to private industry.

In the event the government does provide a form of assistance to a large Canadian employer, is it reasonable to also require, and enforce, that executive bonuses and other shareholder related perks have limits until the loan — and/or other relief measure — is repaid?

I welcome your comments, concerns and questions on this topic or any matter before the House of Commons. I can be reached at [email protected]  or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

Liberal actions misguided

One aspect of majority governments that is not often discussed is its ability to control timing.

Announcements that may not be received positively are often released late on a Friday, as was the case when the Liberals released alarming updated debt projections on Friday, Dec. 23.

Another example: during the same time frame, the budget is introduced knowing it will overshadow other events and thus receive less scrutiny. This occurred recently when the government released a document they call the “Modernizing Parliament” document.

I am increasingly skeptical when the Liberals introduce new documents using buzz words. Such was the case with the “Democratic reform” that the Liberals reneged on only when their preferred version of democratic reform, the use of a ranked ballot, was not well supported by experts and Canadians who supported other proposals, such as proportional representation.

In this case of “Modernizing Parliament,” it is clear that the Liberals see less accountability and a shorter Parliamentary work week – both measures that benefit the majority governing Liberals — as the more modern new way of doing business. 

Some measures being proposed include shortening the parliamentary work week by eliminating Friday sittings, eliminating Opposition procedural tactics and what I find most troublesome allowing the Prime Minister to only show up one day a week in Question Period.

Why does this last measure trouble me? Think back to what was viewed as the Senator Duffy scandal. Without the ability to question the prime minister daily in the House of Commons, it is doubtful this issue would have received the scrutiny it deserved.

Conversely, without the ability to question the prime minister daily, would the talents of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in Question Period have been as well recognized by Canadians?

Having been a member of the former 41st Parliament, I believe our democratic interest was well served with the daily accountability from Question Period with an expectation the Prime Minister attends more than once a week.

At the same time the Liberals are proposing to spend less time in Ottawa, they have also increased parliamentary precinct spending by 18 per cent since being elected. The House of Commons and Senate budget jointly is almost $700 million annually, an increase of roughly $100 million since the Liberals were elected. 

It's misguided to increase spending while proposing to spend less time in Ottawa.

Members of Parliament do not work for the Liberal government; we work for Canadians.

You are our employers and it is up to Canadians to decide if they see higher spending on Parliament and getting a shorter work week in return is something you support.

The Conservative and NDP Opposition caucuses fully oppose these measures. We were elected to a House of Commons that sits five days a week when the House is in session. It is our duty as MPs to honour that work week commitment no differently than most Canadians do.

My question this week is:

do you support a shorter Parliamentary work week when the House of Commons is sitting?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Dan Albas has been a Penticton resident since 1981. After attending Okanagan University College, he chose to move into small business where his company Kick City Martial Arts has flourished, training hundreds of men, women and children to bring out their best. For his work on child safety and awareness, Dan was the recipient Penticton’s 2005 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Dan and his wife, Tara, reside in West Kelowna, where they raise their four daughters.

He has served as campaign chair for the United Way of the South Okanagan-Similkameen in 2006-07 and 2010-11, both times surpassing their fundraising goals.

As a community leader, he was elected to Penticton City Council in the 2008 municipal elections, where, as a first time candidate, he won with 5,656 votes, topping the polls. Through his work as a city councillor, Dan has proven himself to be a strong constituency worker delivering results and standing up for what he believes in. Dan took a leading role on public safety by proposing aggressive panhandling and dog control bylaws; he proposed a review that greatly helped his community to balance the books and to focus on core services by eliminating wasteful or unnecessary spending. His Penticton Politics website blog has offered new ways for constituents to communicate on important issues.

On June 28 of 2012 Dan became one of the first MP’s in recent history to have a Private Members Bill (Bill 311) C-311 become law with the unanimous all party support of both the House of Commons and the Canadian Senate.  Bill C-311 “An Act to amend the importation of intoxicating liquors Act” amended a prohibition era law to prevented the free trade of wine over provincial boarders.

Dan is honoured to serve the residents of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola as their Member of Parliament. He has made good on his commitment to establish a personal blog with his http://www.danalbas.com/mp-report site, where he chronicles his activities as the Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

Dan welcomes your input, so please contact him by e-mail, phone or mail. He can be reached at:

Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola's MP office

2562-B Main Street
West Kelowna, B.C. V4T 2N5
Email: [email protected]
Phone toll free: 1.800.665.8711
Fax: 250.707.2153

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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