Conservative senators are balking at an attempt to speed up consideration of a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, which the Trudeau government hopes to have in place this July.
Sen. Larry Smith, who leads the Conservative caucus in the Senate, indicated Wednesday that his senators need more time than the government wants to give them to do their duty as the official Opposition — to provide thorough and “constructive evaluation” of bills, particularly one as complicated and far-reaching as the cannabis bill.
The government’s representative in the Senate, Sen. Peter Harder, served notice this week that he wants second reading debate on Bill C-45 wrapped up by March 1, after which it would go to committee for detailed examination before returning to the Senate for a final debate and vote.
If the various Senate factions don’t agree to that timetable, Harder warned he’ll move a motion to impose time allocation to cut off debate — a tactic he’s avoided using before now.
Harder justified using it on C-45 because, he said, Conservative senators have been instructed by their party’s leader, Andrew Scheer, to use “all democratic tools” available to “block” the bill.
The bill has been before the Senate since November but only one Conservative senator has spoken on it thus far.
Barring time allocation to cut debate short, Senate rules allow debate to be delayed indefinitely as long as a single senator still wants to speak.
Harder urged to show ‘some flexibility’
Smith said he’s got 17 senators who want to take part in second reading debate but they haven’t spoken as yet, since they were waiting to hear from the ministers in charge of the cannabis file.
Those ministers — Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale — testified on the bill before the Senate last week.
Given the interest in the debate, Smith said he’ll be urging Harder to show “some flexibility” on the…