Hon. Serge Joyal:
The government leader can rest assured, my question is not about the Indian carnival.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): That’s a relief.
Senator Joyal: In a February 23 letter to the federal Ministers of Justice and Health, Quebec’s Minister responsible for Canadian Relations and the Canadian Francophonie, Jean-Marc Fournier, raised the importance of first resolving the two governments’ difference of opinion about whether a province can prohibit people from growing four cannabis plants at home, as Quebec is seeking to do with its Bill 157.
Can the government leader take it upon himself to make sure that the two federal deputy ministers concerned will get in touch with their Quebec counterparts in the following weeks to resolve, in definitive terms, this issue before the final vote on Bill C-45 so that the bill will not be challenged in court by Quebec in the next days and create uncertainties for the police forces responsible for its enforcement?
Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for his question. I will undertake to do that.
However, let me also add that the government, as you would expect, is monitoring the debate in Quebec with great interest and is committing to study what emerges from the National Assembly as they debate their response to, or the integration of, their role.
As you will know, pursuant to Bill C-45, provinces and territories will be able to make additional restrictions on personal cultivation. As the Minister of Justice has said, there are limits to the extent that a province or territory can adapt rules to their circumstances.
I would also note that the Premier of Quebec welcomed the predictability provided for the legislative timetable that this chamber has agreed to with regard to Bill C-45. I know that the Government of Quebec is anxious to have a smooth implementation process, and the issue you’re raising is one that we’ll need to ensure is part of that.
Senator Joyal: In fact, would it not be better to amend Bill C-45 to recognize the capacity of a province to ban, for a period of time, the cultivation of four plants of cannabis in private residences or dwellings to clear up the uncertainty that could be very damaging and, in fact, give rise to a parallel illegal market of cannabis in direct competition with the legal sale of cannabis in the government’s stores?
Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. I think the time for the debate on potential amendments will soon be upon us. At that time, I would be happy to report to the chamber the positions of the Government of Canada on various amendments that may or may not find favour in this chamber.
Let me simply say that the Government of Canada welcomes the engagement of this chamber on this important piece of legislation, and I welcome the return of Senator Dean to help us manage the debate effectively.