Senate struggles to tackle transportation, pot bills
The Senate could continue to sit into the summer to pass the two pieces of pot-related legislation currently being reviewed by Senators.
Peter Harder, the government's representative in the Senate, told The House he's made it clear to his colleagues that bills C-45 and C-46 need to be passed before the chamber breaks for the summer.
"We will sit 'til it's done," he said.
"We have an obligation as a Senate to deal with the legislation that's before us before we take a summer break."
Currently, both the main piece of legislation and the accompanying drug-impaired driving bill are in Senate committees.
Earlier this week, Bill Blair, the Liberal government's point man on pot, said recreational cannabis use will become legal even if the impaired driving law is still being debated in the Senate.
Bill C-46 contains new offences for different levels of drug impairment and gives police the authority to use roadside saliva tests to determine if a driver has drugs in their system.
Harder said he doesn't think they'll have to face the ultimatum of passing Bill C-45 alone.
"I believe that both bills ought to be passed by the senate before we rise for the summer."
The drug-impaired driving legislation has been in committee since December, while the main bill was referred at the end of March.
However, there's a tight timeline to expedite getting the two bills to the floor. The upper chamber is only schedule to sit for another six weeks and the final vote on C-45 is scheduled to occur on or before June 7, with legalization expected to follow eight to 12 weeks later.
Further delays could come, as the members of the Senate's Aboriginal peoples committee recommended last week that the Liberal government hold off on legalization for up to a year in order to address its potential for harmful effects in Indigenous communities.
The committee's report on C-45 said that the government simply did not consult enough with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities before pushing ahead with its plan to legalize the drug.
But delays won't come from roadblocks on other bills, Harder stated.
Bill C-49, which proposes an overhaul of transportation regulations, was sent back to the House for a second time this week.
It was a close vote that Harder says undermines the goal of the Senate as "sober second thought."
Farmers have been eagerly awaiting a part of this transport omnibus bill which, if passed, will give the government the tools to help farmers with cash flow and compel railways to move grain or face penalties. Railways are opting these days to transport more oil — a more lucrative commodity — and in the process are often leaving grain farmers high and dry.
Harder said he doesn't think this refusal of the bill indicates a pattern for the future, but he offered a word of caution.
"I think that a routine of pingpong will undermine the credibility of an unelected chamber."