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Motion No. 154 (Resolve Committee of the Whole on C-45)

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Harder, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Bellemare:

That, without affecting the progress of any proceedings relating to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the subject matter of the bill;

That the committee receive:

(a)the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada;

(b)the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health;

(c)the Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and

(d)Mr. Bill Blair, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Health;

That the witnesses be accompanied by officials;

That the Committee of the Whole report to the Senate no later than two hours after it begins;

That television cameras and photographers be authorized in the Senate Chamber to broadcast and photograph the proceedings with the least possible disruption of the proceedings; and

That the provisions of rule 3-3(1) be suspended on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

Senator Dean: Good afternoon, honourable senators. I am standing here today to talk about Senator Harder’s motion to meet in Committee of the Whole on Bill C-45. This is pretty simple, straightforward stuff, really, isn’t it?

I am hoping we can move it along.

First, Senator Carignan’s ski hill, cannabis and driving story is important. I was pleased to hear it. It’s demonstrative of the here-and-now challenge that we have with cannabis, isn’t it? Kids getting into a car, smoking cannabis on a ski hill. It’s not future-oriented; it is not something that is going to be a result of the passage of a piece of legislation.

That is really important, and here is why. I get a sense that there are some people in here who would like to pretend that we don’t have a problem with cannabis today, who would somehow suggest that the problem with cannabis will start when and if Bill C-45 is approved.

Just for the record, here is a very quick remainder of the uncontested facts about cannabis in Canada today.

Young Canadians are today among the highest users of cannabis in the world. You know that. Cannabis is easily available and frequently used by young Canadians. The early, frequent and heavy use of cannabis by young Canadians has demonstrated harms, and those harms exist today and have existed for decades.

We know that cannabis is drawn exclusively from a $7 billion illicit market that is untested for contaminants and potency.

We know that drivers are using cannabis today.

I think we finally have to face up to the fact that criminalizing cannabis has been a failure in tackling the widespread use of the drug.

These are the facts about cannabis today. They are here-and-now problems with cannabis, and I think it is important that we address them.

I simply say this, and I won’t keep restating it because I suspect that you’re getting tired of it.

I simply want to say this: If there is anyone in here who contests those facts about cannabis, if there is anybody who contests that there are issues with cannabis today and that there have been for some time, let me know. Raise your hand, send me a signal, tug your ear. Just let me know, and we will talk about it.

I believe that yesterday, uncontested with a point of order, Senator Andreychuk talked about the consultation with municipalities. I want you to know, very quickly, that I checked with some municipalities in Ontario that feel fully consulted by the Province of Ontario on Bill C-45.

Now back to Senator Harder’s motion.

I support the motion because, over two months ago, on October 3, I rose in this chamber to speak to Senator Wallin’s inquiry that supports more and better planning, and scheduling and grouping of debates over several consecutive days. The motion is about organizing debates in this place.

I am merely linking the chain of events that gave rise to this motion. I would appreciate having the ability to do that.

I rose to talk to Senator Wallin’s inquiry, which supports more and better planning, scheduling and grouping of debates over several consecutive days. I followed my October 3 statement with bilateral meetings with group and caucus leaders on organizing a different way of doing Senate business for Bill C-45, and I sent a written proposal for their consideration shortly afterward.

Beyond that there has been total silence, for the most part.

This motion is a basic proposal, based on your experience with your highly successful Bill C-14 process as you considered medical assistance in dying. That had a number of components, but right now, we are focusing on the most basic and simple of them — one that has been tried and tested many times in this place — one that would provide more predictability for senators interested in Bill C-45 and ensure some organization of separate debate on major areas of interest. It is kind of good policy-making — just some basic organizing and planning.

But, honourable senators, Committee of the Whole is by far the most timid of my proposals. It has been used widely and successfully in this place. It fits within the rules. You have made a terrific success of bringing sponsoring ministers in here to talk at Committee of the Whole. It would allow honourable senators to pose important questions to the legislators who tabled Bill C-45.

I kind of wonder why any senators would express reluctance about adopting a motion that would bring more transparency, accountability and accessibility to the chamber on an important issue that greatly affects Canadian society.

I said before that, like any other organization that finds a winning formula with its clients, as you did in Bill C-14 — and our clients are citizens, aren’t they? — when we find a winning formula — something that is successful, and something that attracts positive attention to the Senate and the good work that senators do, as you did with Bill C-14 — most organizations would look to replicate that. They want to find the next opportunity to just do that again because it works.

You know what? That is kind of what Senator Harder is suggesting.

Here are a couple of things that happened during my two-month wait for the discussion today. I heard that we have done it this way for 150 years, and there is no need to change now. I also heard that this isn’t an organization; this is the Senate. I wouldn’t like to explain that to Canadians, but you give it a try if you can.

In light of Bill C-45’s significance and the experience with Bill C-14, it is my hope that Senator Harder’s motion to organize Committee of the Whole is adopted. This is about the easiest decision in front of us that we have had for some time.

I am kind of patient. I threw a couple of ideas out of there. I have waited for a couple of months for an answer to a very simple and straightforward proposal: better managing, organization and planning of our debates.

I would ask that you do not delay this further. Any further delay would be completely unnecessary, and it would kind of make me worry that we are getting into delay for the sake of delay.

Honourable senators, let’s vote on Senator Harder’s motion on Committee of the Whole and get on with our work. Thank you so much for listening, and don’t forget there is still time for a tug of your ear if there are any issues about the current issues with cannabis that you don’t quite understand. Thank you.

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