How Far Will MPs Go To Torpedo a Bill?

How Far Will MPs Go To Torpedo a Bill?
Posted by CN Staff on August 20, 2003 at 07:30:55 PT
Source: Globe and Mail 
If Canadian Alliance MPs had met with the deputy U.S. drug czar to enlist his help in stopping the federal government from decriminalizing marijuana, Liberal MPs would have criticized them as sneaky, if not disloyal.So, news that a group of Liberal MPs may have done just that ought to concern members of the Liberal caucus, now meeting in North Bay, Ont.
The backbenchers in question -- Roger Gallaway, Brenda Chamberlain, Dan McTeague and a few others -- are frequent and often bitter critics of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's government, an unofficial opposition that works from within. Last month they met with Barry Crane, deputy director for supply reduction at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.According to a memo written by a Canadian Foreign Affairs official who sat in on that meeting, the rebel MPs were looking for help in defeating the cannabis reform bill. Mr. McTeague denies this, and says the main goal of the meeting was simply to exchange views.The U.S. administration has already made its views known. When the bill was introduced in May, John Walters, the White House director of drug-control policy, quickly condemned Ottawa's plans to replace the current stiff penalties for Canadians caught possessing small amounts of marijuana with fines similar to those handed out for speeding. He called the proposed legislation a threat to Americans, and said his government would take stringent steps to keep Canadian cannabis from flowing south. The cost to Canada could be high, he warned, in dramatically slower traffic at the borders and lost trade for Canadian companies.His deputy, Dr. Crane, came to Ottawa last month to discuss the contentious issue with Canadian officials. During his visit, he also met with the group of Liberal MPs on Parliament Hill. Two officials from Foreign Affairs attended.Mr. McTeague asked one official to leave, but according to the memo seemed unaware that a second official remained in the room. That official took detailed minutes of the encounter, noting that at least one of the MPs suggested that to defeat the bill, senior members of the U.S. administration needed to emphasize the damage it would do to cross-border trade.The bureaucrat, whose name has not been made public, was apparently so troubled by the MPs' behaviour that he or she passed the minutes of the meeting to senior officials in the department. A source in government showed the memo to reporter Brian Laghi of The Globe's Ottawa bureau.Maybe the meeting was an innocent one, as the MPs contend. Maybe, as they say, any suggestions about how to help defeat the bill were made in asides, not directly to Dr. Crane. But given their vocal opposition to this bill and many other government policies, it is more likely the backbenchers were looking for help in the fight to keep a much tougher drug law in place.Their conduct was highly inappropriate. True, they weren't telling Dr. Crane anything he didn't already know, but MPs shouldn't be turning to the United States for extraterritorial help in thwarting the Canadian government. It is part of a pattern of increasingly reckless behaviour on the part of the rebels, who are chafing under Mr. Chrétien's rule.The outgoing Prime Minister probably can't bring them into line, but the censure of their fellow MPs may have some influence. They look like sneaks, and deserve to be criticized. Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 - Page A14 Copyright: 2003 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Group Sought U.S. Help To Derail Pot Bill Brings Anti-Pot Message To Ottawa Drug Envoy, Ottawa To Consult on Pot Law
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