• Niche Canada

Canada’s Senators Must Respect the Will of Canadians

It’s becoming clear that despite the overwhelming and unwavering support for cannabis legalization from all corners of our country, Conservative Senators are choosing party lines over the democratic will of the people.

These Senators almost succeeded in defeating the Cannabis Act in March, which would have sent Trudeau’s government back to the drawing board, significantly delaying implementation of legislation to legalize recreational cannabis. But, the bill passed that stage of Senate review and is now being examined by a number of Senate committees.

Within the coming weeks, however, the Senate will once again be voting on whether to approve or defeat the Cannabis Act. This will be a deciding moment for legalization and Canada’s democratic principles.

That’s because the Senate does not traditionally defeat legislation that is being implemented as a result of a campaign promise. Legalization was a key part of Trudeau’s election platform. Therefore, Canadians gave Trudeau the mandate to proceed with legalization when we voted in his government. For unelected Senators to thwart the will of the people would be a huge slap in the face of democracy.

While Conservative Senators keep reiterating that it’s not their job to prop up government legislation, they need to be reminded that they represent Canadians and should respect the will of the people, rather than their party lines.

Their motives were made quite clear this month when they used Canadian taxpayer money to travel to Washington to speak to Republican politicians who are staunch supporters of prohibition and have been very vocal in their fight against cannabis legalization. It was a highly unusual move and some say it was an attempt to undermine the government of Canada's relationship with the American administration.

To be clear, Senators have a constitutional responsibility to thoughtfully review and debate the legislation. But, the opinions and actions of Opposition Senators appear to be rooted in partisan politics, rather than a genuine desire to get it right.

Their main argument is the need to protect health and safety. If that’s the case, it’s important to remember why the government is ending prohibition. The current regime is failing our youth, criminalizing thousands of Canadians and allowing gangs to thrive off black market production, distribution and retail.

The Cannabis Act will enact new measures to keep cannabis out of the hands of our children and youth, by restricting access and putting in safeguards to prevent people from encouraging young people to buy or use it. Unlike the current framework, there will be serious penalties for those who break these new criminal offences. Delaying legalization will postpone these important health and safety enhancements.

It is Canada’s network of criminal gangs that will benefit the most if legalization is put on hold. Our country needs a safe, legal and tightly regulated supply chain to remove the billions of dollars of profits from the hands of criminal organizations.

Governments and businesses across the country are moving forward in a pragmatic and efficient manner, and it is in the best interest of Canadians that Senators take the same approach.

Canadians need to stand up and remind Conservative Senators that the country voted in favour of the Prime Minister’s plan to legalize cannabis and they need to respect that decision. If you want to have your say - here’s a link to the contact information for Canada's 105 Senators.