NDP MP Libby Davies' private member's bill, Bill C-304, has been in the House recently, so I caught up with her after question period today to ask her about its progress.
Q: Your bill had debate on Thursday.
A: It was second hour of third reading, and it’s coming up for a vote tomorrow.
Q: And there’s something about an amendment?
A: Yes – the amendment, if passed – and I hope it is approved – will send the bill back to committee to deal with the question of the jurisdiction of Quebec. So we’ve still got to work on that, but we have the agreement of the Liberals and the Bloc to support this amendment. That means it will go back to committee. I hope that it will be at committee briefly, meaning that the committee will deal that fairly quickly. I’m not on that committee, and obviously I’ll have to talk to committee members and all of that, but I’m hoping that we can come up with an amendment at the committee that will ensure that when the Bill comes back into the House for a final vote, it will have the approval of a majority of members.
But so far so good – and it’s still getting mega support.
Q: Isn’t this amendment process going to put it into a time crunch, especially with concerns of a spring election?
A: There’s always the question of a time crunch, which is difficult to control. The good news here is that we’re already at third reading, so we’re already in the final stages. It’s not like we’re at second reading and we’ve got a ways to go. The fact that it’s now completed the last hour of debate, and we’re taking this additional step of sending it to committee and, as I mentioned, to hopefully get it back to the House quickly, I’m hoping that we can do this all fairly quickly.
Q: So would it need to go back through third reading?
A: There’s some debate on that.
Q: The other thing is you’ve got a roundtable this evening about drug policy. Tell me a little more about that?
A: I’ve wanted to do this for quite a long time. There’s a huge debate going on globally on drug policy and how the so-called war on drugs is a failure both politically, economically, from a justice point of view. It’s a very healthy debate’s that taking place, and I feel like Canada is moving backwards in this debate. We have an all-party sponsored forum, which is fairly significant. There are four members – one Conservative, one Liberal, one Bloc and myself. We have some very interesting guests, including the ambassador from Portugal to Canada. Portugal has taken some very interesting drug reforms, to basically decriminalize, to look at this issue more as a health issue. And so the fact that we have the ambassador coming to speak about their experience in Portugal and how it’s working is very good. We also have a very good speaker coming from the US from a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and most of the LEAP members are former law enforcement officers, some of them police chiefs, former being the key word. This guy is a current law enforcement official. He’s the superintendent of Corrections from New Hampshire or New Jersey, and he’s spoken before Congressional committees. The fact that he’s a member of LEAP is quite interesting, and we have a couple of speakers as well, including Tara Lyons, who’s from here in Ottawa with the Canadian Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. It should be a very interesting discussion. I have no idea who’s going to show up. We invited MPs, senators, the diplomatic corps and local groups. I have no idea if we’re going to have five people or 50.