Provinces prepare for tabling of much-anticipated pot legislation

Provinces prepare for federal pot bill

OTTAWA — Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi says legalizing marijuana is already proving to be a “tremendous” undertaking for the provinces and territories — and it’s only going to get worse come Thursday.

That’s when the federal government introduces its long-awaited legislation to legalize pot across Canada, a seismic policy shift that has provincial, territorial and municipal governments looking for something to hold on to.

Ontario has been collaborating with other jurisdictions to share information ahead of the federal legislation being tabled, Naqvi said, noting much work involving multiple ministries has been done in preparation for the changing landscape — details of which are expected in the forthcoming Liberal legislation.

Naqvi said he expects to see a fairly detailed bill — one that’s going to take time to unpack, particularly when it comes to the impact on provincial governments, where issues like distribution and enforcement are front and centre.  

“This is quite a large undertaking,” he said. “I think last time we legalized a product that was not legal was the end of prohibition in the 1930s.”

Last year, Ontario established a cannabis legalization secretariat — part of an effort to explore various options the federal legislation could present to prevent having to start from scratch once the bill is unveiled.

“We want to make sure that we are protecting the vulnerable and the youth, that we are promoting public health and road safety and that we are focusing on prevention and harm reduction,” Naqvi said.

“This is also multi-ministerial work because there are several ministries that are impacted.”

Ontario has also formed a working group with Quebec on marijuana to share expertise and co-operate on analysis of the federal legislation.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant said Wednesday a number of systems will need to be in place to ensure continued public safety, including on roadways and at workplaces.

The prairie provinces have said they want Ottawa to cover the additional law enforcement costs that are likely to come with legalized pot.

Bill Blair, the federal parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and the government’s point man on pot, said the federal government recognizes and respects the role of the provinces in the legalization of marijuana.

“We know that the provinces will have a very significant role, particularly in managing the retail environment and the consumption regulations,” Blair said in a recent interview. 

“In order to do that effectively, they are going to need to have resources for the administration and enforcement … and so that’s part of an important discussion that will take place between the federal government and the provinces.”

Blair also said the federal government is committed to ensuring that police and courts have technology, training and resources to keep roads safe.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister had urged Ottawa to slow down on marijuana legalization, but the province has nonetheless been laying the groundwork for the federal plan.

The Manitoba government brought forward a bill last month that sets restrictions on marijuana similar to those on alcohol — it lists marijuana as an intoxicant and bans people from consuming it in a vehicle.

Alberta, meanwhile, has taken a wait-and-see approach.

Last month, Premier Rachel Notley said her government will be “consulting with Albertans about how best to do this in a way that preserves public safety, preserves health and protects our young people.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says her fear is that legalization will send the message that the drug is “harm free,” despite the fact it remains a dangerous substance.

“It’s not harm-free,” she told The Canadian Press.

“Just like alcohol, it’s got a lot of harms associated with it, so I want to make sure we do everything we can to keep it out of the hands of kids.”

— With files from Allison Jones in Toronto, Tim Cook in Edmonton,

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

New Glade ferry enters testing phase

The Glade II will be able to carry heavier loads and will emit less greenhouse gases.

Freezing rain warning in effect for B.C. Southern Interior

Environment Canada issued the freezing rain warning for most of the Southern Interior Tuesday morning

Rumble In The Rockies brings live boxing back to Fernie

Local boxer, Dylan Mitchell takes first career win at home

Smiles all around as province announces emergency ward funding

$2.1 million to go to much-needed upgrades

Solitary-confinement veto a chance to address mental health: advocate

B.C. Supreme Court made the landmark ruling Wednesday

Winter storm coming to B.C. this weekend

The bets are on as to how much snow the province will actually get in the coming days

B.C. civil rights group files complaint about RCMP arrest of man who later died

Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was arrested in Prince George last July

Lawyer says former B.C. government aide ‘barely guilty’ in ethnic vote scandal

Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to a breach of trust charge

Quite a few tears as homemade quilts distributed to residents of Ashcroft Reserve, Boston Flats affected by last summer’s fire

Quilters in B.C. and Alberta worked through the summer and fall to create more than 100 quilts.

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

B.C. coast loggers celebrate history, hope for improvement

Truck Loggers Association awaits B.C. NDP government’s new direction

Global Affairs aware of report of two Canadians kidnapped in Nigeria

The foreigners were heading south from Kafanchan to Abuja when they were ambushed around Kagarko

Whistler role in potential Calgary Olympic bid would be welcome: IOC

Calgary is mulling whether to vie for the 2026 Games, and could look to facilities in B.C.

Most Read