The National Today: Legalized-pot pourri, Tesla truck overhaul, Franken's fast fall

A deeper dive into the day's most important stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse.

A deeper dive into the day's most important stories

Provincial proposals for controlling the sale and use of marijuana differ wildly. (Kevin Frayer/The Canadian Press)

Welcome to The National Today daily newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around the day's most important stories. Sign up here under "Subscribe to The National's newsletter," and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

Legal pot pourri

The Quebec and Alberta governments have revealed how they will govern the sale of marijuana when it becomes legal this summer.

The Trudeau Liberals introduced the new national pot law in April. And Ontario became the first province out of the gate when it introduced the exquisitely named "Safe and Sensible Framework to Manage Federal Legalization of Cannabis" in Sept. Manitoba and New Brunswick have also provided some details of how they intend to deal with the change.

The other provinces and territories will soon follow with their own proposed regulations as the July legalization deadline looms.

Some provinces will allow privately owned stores, others won't. (David Horemans/CBC)
What's already clear is that there will be different tokes for different folks across the country:

  • In Ontario the legal age will be 19, with the cops mandated to seize all teen weed, while Alberta and Quebec will both permit 18-year-olds to smoke.
  • People in Quebec will be able to light up anyplace they can already smoke — although pot is explicitly banned in the workplace, hospitals and post-secondary institutions. In Ontario, pot smoking will only be permitted in private residences. In Alberta, smoking will be treated the same whether it's tobacco or cannabis, except for vehicles where toking - by driver or passengers - is strictly forbidden.
  • Initially there will be up to 80 government-run retail pot outlets in Ontario, up to 20 in New Brunswick, but just 15 in Quebec (although they will have the best name, La Société québécoise du cannabis). Manitoba will adopt a hybrid model — with the government supplying pot to an as-yet-undetermined number of privately owned stores for public sale. Alberta intends to go the private route as well. It appears that all five provinces will allow online purchases, which will mostly likely be delivered to your door by Canada Post.
Some provinces like Alberta and New Brunswick will permit home-grown marijuana, while Quebec will prohibit growing your own. (Associated Press)
The federal legislation allows Canadians to grow up to four plants at home for personal use. A provision that was going to limit them to one-metre in height has been dropped. Meanwhile:

  • Quebec is saying no cultivation at all, and wants to impose a fine ranging from $250 to $750 for a first offence, doubling it for a second one.
  • Alberta will allow the four plants, albeit in an indoor grow room.
  • In New Brunswick you will be able to grow inside or outdoors, but only in "secure" settings.

Ottawa's law allows for the possession of "up to 30 grams" of fresh or dried pot.

  • In Alberta, you'll be able to buy up to 30g at a time, but there will be no limit as to how much you can have at home.
  • Ditto for New Brunswick, although you must keep your stash under lock and key, either in a container or a special room.

The only harmonization among the provinces is on the issue of taxes. They all agree that Ottawa's plan for a 50/50 revenue split is unfair.

The provinces have all agreed that splitting the tax revenue from marijuana products 50-50 with the federal government is a no-go. (Coast to Coast Medicinals)
"I'm not sure what the federal government is smoking, but I can tell you … this is not going to work for Alberta," Joe Ceci, the provincial finance minister, said last week.

Of course, provinces taking wildly different approaches to citizen recreation is something of a Canadian tradition. Prohibition came and went across the country, lasting less than a year in Quebec, five years in British Columbia, and 47 in PEI. And mostly, the anti-drinking laws were ignored.

Just like the old — and one suspects the new — regulations on pot.

Tesla semi: Large and well-charged

Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces his company's new electric trucks in Los Angeles. (Tesla)
Electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors introduced its latest innovation last night - a fully electric semi-truck.

  • The big rig will have a range of 800 kilometres, and promises to be close to self-driving, equipped with an advanced autopilot that uses cameras and radar to steer clear of trouble, as well as automatic emergency braking.
  • The truck has been designed to be jackknife-proof, with sensors to detect instability and adjust the torque and braking power on each wheel.
  • The cabin will be big enough to stand in, with the steering wheel in the centre to increase the driver's visibility. And there will be giant touchscreens on both sides of the driver for navigation, safety monitoring and online communication with other drivers or the fleet owner.

The most impressive thing, however might be the semi's speed — zero  to 100 km/h in just over five seconds while empty, and around 20 seconds while pulling a full 36,000 kg load. That's less than a third as long as it takes a diesel rig to reach that speed, and when empty the Tesla will rival luxury passenger cars like the 2017 Audi S5 convertible or BMW 330i.  

(The company also unveiled a new Roadster sports car last night, which will be the first production vehicle able to go 0 to 100 km/h in under two seconds.)

Tesla has already taken its first orders for the trucks, with a Michigan retailer and an Arkansas-based trucking firm plopping down deposits of $5,000 US per vehicle. Walmart said Friday it has ordered five trucks for the U.S. and 10 for Canada. Which is a leap of faith, given that there is no price tag yet.

"Tesla stuff is expensive," company founder Elon Musk said at the unveiling, held in an aircraft hanger near Los Angeles.

Production is supposed to start by the end of 2019.

Tesla's new Roadster will be the first production vehicle able to go 0 to 100 km/hr in under two seconds. (Alexandria Sage/Reuters)
The sell is that the trucks will be more cost effective to operate over the long run. Tesla says they'll be cheaper to run, making deliveries faster, with few parts to break down and repair, and lasting far longer than a conventional diesel rig. Owners can expect at least $200,000 US in fuel savings over the truck's lifespan, the company claims.

Analysts have their doubts the projected savings will actually materialize, or that truckers can be convinced to abandon cheap and reliable diesel. (Although running electric trucks in a convoy might be cost-effective.)

But there's a big potential market. In the United States alone, trucks carry around 70 per cent of all goods shipped, a trade worth $719 billion US per year.

Al Franken's fast fall

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
Al Franken, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota and former Saturday Night Live star, has always been a favourite of the press and public. But now that L.A. radio personality Leeann Tweeden has accused him of unwanted sexual advances and provided creepy, photographic proof, his star is imploding.

His fall from grace in five tweets:

At Issue

In Rosemary's Barton's latest At Issue panel, Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hébert and Josh Wingrove discuss the Paradise Papers, Stephen Bronfman and how the revelations affect Justin Trudeau's Liberals.

Quote of the moment

"The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done. A full head swap between brain dead organ donors is the next stage. And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent."

- Controversial Italian neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, claiming to be close to perfecting a human head transplant at a Vienna news conference today 

What The National is reading

  • All the names — companies and individuals — in the tax-haven Paradise Papers (CBC)
  • Everything is broken, including digital media (Fast Company)
  • Pine beetle infestation in Jasper National Park spreading to commercial timber (Calgary Herald)
  • Norway's sovereign fund - built on oil profits - may stop investing in oil and gas (Telegraph)
  • Could terrorists remotely hack a plane's cockpit controls? Someone else did. (Daily Beast)  

This weekend in history

Nov. 18, 1988: The 1988 federal election: a war of words.

As the 'free trade' election comes to a close, Barbara Frum looks back at a particularly nasty campaign.

Mulroney, Broadbent and Turner square off in a war of words. 3:29

About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.