Article by Kristy Kirkup, MacLeans
The federal government’s plan to make Canada the first G7 country to legalize marijuana is creating political friction domestically, amid fears it will be the latest bone of contention between some of the provinces and Ottawa.
A number of provincial governments are expressing concern in the wake of signals that federal legislation to legalize pot will be introduced the week of April 10 — just 10 days before annual “Weed Day” celebrations held across the country.
Quebec’s outspoken Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said Tuesday that Ottawa tossed out a date for the proposed legislation without warning.
“It’s not normal for a national government to address its partners in this way,” he said in Quebec City. “For a government that often has the word respect on its lips, that could also extend to federal-provincial relations.”
However, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he doesn’t see the effort to legalize pot as a point of friction in federal-provincial relations, although he wants to see the fine details of the proposed legislation and the extent of the burden placed on the provinces.
“There are many issues that will be in provincial court, and we don’t want to have a wide range of expensive and heavy responsibilities pushed on us,” he said. “I think this message has been heard in Ottawa: Let us see the bill and we’ll come back to it.”
Saskatchewan said in a statement that Ottawa has offered “nothing” in the way of a pan-Canadian approach on regulations, prompting fears of a patchwork of rules and insurmountable law enforcement challenges.