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Feds call July 2018 timeline for marijuana legalization ‘reasonable’

Feds call July 2018 timeline for marijuana legalization ‘reasonable’
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ST. JOHN’S, NL—The federal Liberal government has swept aside growing police concerns over the July 2018 timeline to legalize marijuana in Canada, saying the deadline is “reasonable” and can be met.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters Wednesday the government has put “very significant” money — up to $274 million — into supporting the ability of police and border guards to enforce new rules which would come into effect next July 1, under two bills now being studied in parliament.

But Canadian police chiefs believe their forces aren’t ready and neither is the Canadian public.

On Tuesday, officials from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the OPP and Saskatoon police testified at a health committee studying the bill to legalize pot that they need more time to properly train officers, to more than double the number of officers who are certified to do roadside testing for drug impaired drivers, and to raise public awareness about the impairment effects of smoking marijuana.

Goodale, who meets provincial justice and public safety ministers later this week, said he will discuss those concerns but he disagreed that the government was moving too fast.

He said he’ll “listen very carefully” to all the expert advice at parliamentary hearings and didn’t directly reject the police chiefs’ request for a delay, but Goodale suggested it is not necessary.

“This is a large transformative initiative. When you bring forward that kind of measure obviously it challenges people to meet the objectives but the timeline is a solid one. The deadline is 10 or 11 months away so there’s time there to move forward.”

“We believe that the time frame we’ve set out is reasonable. We’ve put new money on the table to help achieve the objectives and the mood among all of those that need to work on this is a constructive mood. Naturally people will ask questions and raise issues. That’s what this process is about.”

When reporters asked again if delay was an option, Goodale replied: “Look, we’ve set the objective in July of next year and we’re anxious to achieve that objective.”

Quebec is another province that is flagging concerns about the federal government’s push into what it regards as provincial areas of responsibility – health services and administration of justice. A government source says that is in part why the Health portfolio was given to a francophone Ginette Pettipas-Taylor in last month’s cabinet shuffle.

And while the Trudeau government refuses to delay its pot plans, it is content to drag its feet on another major government policy – the decision to deploy Canadian military on a UN peacekeeping mission.

Nearly two years after saying “Canada’s back” on the world stage and vowing to reengage Canadian troops abroad in support of United Nations peace operations in Africa, the Trudeau government has now decided to put off the decision on where to deploy .

It comes as Canada is set to host a major international peacekeeping conference which was launched last year in London to elicit troop pledges from countries in support of the UN.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told the Star in an exclusive interview that the delay was “not about cold feet” but said the government was determined to make the “right” decision and have “an actual impact on the ground.”

On Wednesday he denied Canada would be embarrassed in front of its allies. “Our allies want us to make a responsible decision,” and know Canada is committed “to making this decision,” said Sajjan.

Sajjan took few questions and walked into cabinet meetings as a reporter asked whether this latest delay would prevent Canada from winning its coveted seat on the UN security council, he did not answer.

The federal cabinet retreat ends Wednesday with a news conference by the prime minister as the government heads into a challenging fall with NAFTA negotiations set to resume later this month in Ottawa. That deal is crucial to Canada’s economy, and the Conservatives are urging the government to focus on jobs and market access for Canadian goods and services to the giant U.S. market.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna made a point of saying the economy goes hand in hand with the environment at the NAFTA talks for Canada. She hosts an international ministerial meeting on climate change in Montreal Friday and Saturday, which representatives of the United States and China are expected to attend.

McKenna said it’s important to the Liberal government that the words “climate change” or “greenhouse gas emissions” are in a new, enforceable chapter on the environment in the main agreement.

“We believe we should be reflecting those words” McKenna told reporters. “This is of course a negotiation. When the (U.S.) President (Donald Trump) and the prime minister met there was a statement that reflected the need to work together for clean air, clean water, including the Great Lakes, and energy innovation, so that’s getting there.”

“This is diplomacy and I think it’s really important to engage,” said McKenna. “I don’t think we differ from the United States in that we want good jobs, we want to attract investment, we want clean air and water and we want a better future for our kids.”
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