Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s representative in the upper house, Peter Harder, is prepared to limit debate on the cannabis bill to move the legislation through Parliament ahead of the planned July 1 legalization date.
In a speech in the Senate chamber Tuesday, Harder said he would invoke time allocation — a tool that effectively ends debate and forces a vote — if Bill C-45 is not sent to committee by March 1.
The legislation, passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Red Chamber last November, is currently at second reading in the Senate, meaning there is still much legislative work to do before the bill becomes law.
Harder’s warning is a shot across the bow at the Conservative senators who have said they have serious concerns about the bill — its potential impact on youth and on rates of drug-impaired driving and the short time frame between the bill’s passage and full legalization. Conservatives have been pushing for a delay in implementation and a more robust public education campaign ahead of the bill’s passage.
Harder said the March 1 deadline gives those senators who wish to speak to the bill two more weeks of debate at this stage before it moves to committee, where the Senate’s “sober second thought” function is best carried out.
He said he is also willing to extend sittings to include Mondays and Fridays for the rest of the month. The Senate usually only sits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
So far, only one Conservative — Sen. Dennis Patterson of Nunavut — has spoken about the bill in the chamber.
Harder said he is signalling now he is prepared to use time allocation — a motion that would have to be approved by a majority of senators in the chamber — because he fears “partisan politics could affect our proceedings.”
‘I am concerned’