Saturday September 09, 2017

The era of legal marijuana is taking shape

Pot joint smoking in hand of participant at 420 rally in Vancouver.

Pot joint smoking in hand of participant at 420 rally in Vancouver. (David Horemans/CBC)

Listen to Full Episode 48:29

The haze is clearing on how Ontario will handle legalized marijuana next year.

This week the province was the first to announce a framework to manage the sale and use of marijuana, which includes an online ordering service and roughly 150 stand-alone stores.

And Liberal MP Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and the government's point man on cannabis legalization, said it's a step in the right direction.

"One of the things we knew was necessary was for the provinces to engage and to consider what's best for their environment," the former Toronto police chief said. 

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Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, has been the government's point man on cannabis legalization. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"I'm very encouraged that they've come forward with their plan and a path forward. We've still got a great deal of work to do to put the regulations in place to make sure we achieve what we're trying to achieve." 

Ontario's announcement follows legislation introduced in the House of Commons in April to legalize and regulate the sale and distribution of marijuana on or before July 1, 2018.  

Many of the decisions about how the drug will be sold and taxed are being left to the provinces and the rest of the pack is expected to release their plans in the coming weeks and months.

Critisism for Ontario's plan was swift.

Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, feels it misses the mark.

"Having limited retail outlets across Ontario for legal marijuana will do virtually nothing to combat the huge illegal market," he said in a statement.

"People will always complain and I think people need to understand why it's important that we have strong reglatory control on what's being sold, how it's being sold and how it's being consumed in our communities," said Blair.

Legal marijuana will stay in the spotlight next week when The House of Commons health committee returns to Parliament Hill a week early to hold five full days of uninterrupted hearings.

Medical and legal professionals, police officers and pot producers are among the dozens of witnesses lined up to field questions from MPs about public health issues related to the looming legalization of marijuana.


Best way for Canada to defend against North Korea? Join missile defence program: Lawson

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Gen. Tom Lawson, former chief of the defence staff, says there's no guarantee the U.S. would help Canada if North Korea fired a missile. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The best way for Canada to defend its people from a nuclearly armed North Korea is to join the  U.S. ballistic missile defence program, argues a former chief of defence staff.

And Tom Lawson, who served as Canada's top soldier under former prime minister Stephen Harper, says he's heartened to see signals from the Liberal government that they might be open to it.

"If a rogue nation fired  a ballistic missile at the United States and  it went off course towards Canada, it's not a certain thing that that missile would be brought down by American ballistic missile defence because Canada hasn't signed on," said Lawson, who also served as the deputy commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

"It just really makes sense that if the Americans are asking Canadians to come on board this would provide Canadians politicians, at times of crises, is a say of what happens with that portion of Norad defence."

Lawson said just a few years ago it looked more unlikely that North Korea would be able to build up its nuclear capacity to what it has today. Now North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un claimed his country's missile now has the range to hit Chicago.

The Liberal government chose in its recent defence policy to remain outside of the U.S. anti-ballistic missile program, upholding a decision made over a decade ago by Prime Minister Paul Martin.

But Lawson said the defence policy does have a  line about engagaing "the United States to look more broadly at emerging threats and perils to North America, across all domains as part of Norad modernization."

"What it means is we've got an open mind to other things," said Lawson.


'That is not a renewed relationship'

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Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, left to right, Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand and President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed listen to a reporters question during an availability in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday December 15, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The head of Canada's national Inuit organization says he's not impressed with the way the Liberal government announced a meeting with premiers and Indigenous leaders next month  

A news release from the prime minister's office on Thursday said Justin Trudeau will meet with premiers and Indigenous leaders on Oct. 3 with environmentally friendly economic development at the top of the agenda.

The Prime Minister's Office confirmed that there will be three meetings: one with the prime minister and premiers; another with the prime minister and Indigenous leaders; and a third with Trudeau, premiers and the Indigenous leaders. The format and duration of the meetings have not been finalized.

The news came as a surprise to Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

"It does frustrate me but it's also just indicative of where we are. If you want it to be about benchmarks about two years in this is where we are," he told David Cochrane during an interview for CBC Radio's The House.

"I don't accept that the agenda is dictated to Indigenous people about what we will talk about at this meeting. That is not a renewed relationship. That is a paternal way of imaging what the priorities are that one group wants to talk about to another."

Obed said he'll be raising housing, the high rate of tuberculosis amongst the Inuit population, suicide prevention and the implementation of land claims.

"It's the difference between doing things for us or doing things with us. In the month or so what have we seen? We've seen the splitting of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and that was described in a  certain way but it wasn't for Inuit our top priority per say," Obed said.

In July, leaders of three Indigenous organizations boycotted the Council of the Federation meetings in Edmonton, because they were scheduled to take part in separate meetings rather than participate in all sessions as full members.

At the time, Obed, National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations, and President Clément Chartier of the Métis National Council held a news conference to criticize the format, insisting it was an attempt to sideline and marginalize Indigenous involvement.

Obed said the decision to not participate in the Edmonton meetings came down to the provinces and territories view national Indigenous participation.

"Hopefully we can get beyond some of those frustrating barriers," he said.

"There is a spot where federal power and provincial and territorial power ends and our Indigenous self-determination and our governance begins in Canada. I think that's a point that's really just lost in all this bluster about can we not get along, or what do want."


Doctors vs. Morneau

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Doctors are warning that the Liberal government's proposed changes to the small business tax regime could force female physicians to leave the profession, and some have travelled to the national Liberal caucus meeting to turn up the heat on skittish MPs. (Getty Images/Hero Images)

This week doctors piled on the Liberal government's proposed changes to the small business tax regime arguing the changes force female physicians to leave the profession.

According to the Canadian Medical Association, two-thirds of family physicians under the age of 35 are women, and they often don't have access to maternity leave programs available to many wage earners. Many doctors rely on so-called "income sprinkling," paying their spouses to stay home and raise children while they work to pay off student debts accumulated from years of schooling, said the group.

"That money in my corporation is used to run my business. That's what many doctors who have clinics set things up like," Dr. Trina Larsen Soles, president of Doctors of B.C. and an incorporated physician in Golden.

She joined a group of doctors who travelled to the national Liberal caucus meeting in Kelowna  to turn up the heat on skittish MPs."If I have to go off on an unanticpated medical leave or something like that, I can use money in the corporation to cover the time off because I don't get sick pay, I don't get pension, I don't get disability." 

She said her clinic has two doctors who are on the verge of retirement and will likely leave because of these changes.

When asked why doctors don't buy into the Employment Insurance program to receive maternity and parental leave, Soles said it's "really complicated top buy into EI as a business owner because you have to pay double."

"We need a better system so that every woman who wants to have a child in Canada can be assured that she can afford to do so," Soles said. "But that's a major societal restructuring."