Does Rivers have a clearer picture of the Prime Minister? On the legalizing of marijuana he certainly thinks so.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 17, 2017



Globe and Mail journalist John Ibbitson sees little daylight between the foreign policies of Justin Trudeau and former Prime Minister Harper. Ibbitson should have an inside track on something like this given his extensive record as a journalist and someone who recently completed a biography on Mr. Harper.

A Canadian soldier explains the conduct of a patrolling raid to a Ukrainian platoon during small team training at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine, on September 1, 2016. Photo : JTF-U AK51-2016-069-03 ~ Photo : JTF-U AK51-2016-069-03

A Canadian soldier explains the conduct of a patrolling raid to a Ukrainian platoon during small team training at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine.

And the proof. Canada hasn’t yet reopened the embassy in Iran, which Harper had closed. The Liberals have extended Harper’s military mission in Ukraine, and like the former government are providing training but no serious defensive hardware. The European and other free trade deals are moving ahead as if Mr. Harper were still in charge. And Harper’s pet Keystone XL has been blessed with the go-ahead by the new US president.

But seriously, Harper would never have supported the recent UN motion condemning Israel’s ongoing settlements on Palestinian territory. Nor would the former PM have been seen signing onto the Paris climate change accord with such determination. Our immigration and refugee policies are at a significant distance from where Harper was taking Canada. And Trudeau has now granted our NAFTA cousins in Mexico visa-free entry.

Trudeau - real change

Justin Trudeau campaigned on Real Change – the exact definition of what that meant wasn’t clear – what we are getting may not have been what we thought we were being given.

Trudeau was the candidate of change, so one should expect to see some daylight between him and the others. He out-flanked the NDP on the left and he turned conventional thinking on its head promising to run deficits, legalize pot, open the nation’s gates to Syrian refugees, do something serious about climate change, reform Canada’s indigenous policy and change the way MP’s get elected.

But some folks are losing their religion, getting anxious, frustrated, disillusioned, or worse. Time has a habit of eroding promises and dreams – like sand on a hillside on a windy day – or the brash and bold promises made on a campaign pulpit on election eve.

And a year later, there are business folk still waiting for that massive deficit-funded stimulus to kick-in. Aboriginal leaders are wondering when they’ll see real change in their lives and their place in Canada. Environmentalists, enthused with the declaration of a nation-wide carbon tax, are licking their wounds after the rash of pipeline announcements, and worrying about how the dinosaur leading the lemmings south of the border, might affect environmental policy in the Great White North.

maijuana - liberal ministers

Federal Ministers Jane Phillpot; Health and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Justice

And then there is that marijuana wannabe crowd. They know that pot is the biggest cash crop in the United States. So they’ve got the business munchies – eager to start making money by selling dope. But Mr. Trudeau has made it clear that legalization is mainly about keeping weed out of the hands of children. So he has smoked the wannabe vendors by sicking the cops on them – telling the police to enforce the law, even though everybody knows the law is slated to change sometime soon.

Well it is slated to change unless that particular promise gets deferred or cancelled. Folks are nervous after the PM dumped his promise on electoral reform into the trash bin of good intentions. We may recall that his father had commissioned a study back in 1969, the Le Dain Commission, which recommended removing criminal penalties for simple possession and allowing the cultivation of marijuana for personal use.

There may not have been broad consensus on pot then. Decriminalization may not have been the highest priority for the government of the late Pierre Trudeau at that time. And perhaps Nixon got in the way with his ‘war on drugs’. Still, decriminalizing Mary Jane would have kept a lot of harmless people out of jail, and would perhaps do more for the economy today than the billions Mr. Trudeau is pumping into infrastructure,

Marijuana - cash crop

Marijuana – the new cash crop

This filed of canola is at the 50 per cent bloom stage. The optimum time to apply a fungicide to protect canola from sclerotinia is at 20 to 30 per cent bloom, but it can be applied up to 50 per cent bloom. photo lionel kaskiw, mafrd

Canola – an existing cash crop. which of the two is healthier?

Stephen Harper used to argue that the best way to keep narcotics out of the hands of young people was to just do what his government had been doing – throwing people in jail. But nothing could be further from the truth if the experience in US jurisdictions holds up.

Marijuana use among America’s youth has fallen dramatically since states started legalizing the substance. And that would put Trudeau definitely on the right track to meet his objective. And that, Mr. Ibbitson, would be a lot of daylight between him and Mr. Harper – at least on this file.

Rivers looking to his leftRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

John Ibbitson –   Trudeau’s Foreign Policy –   Enforcing the Law –   Electoral Reform

Indigenous Policy –   Cannabis in Colorado –   Legalized MJ –   Le Dain Commission

Youth Trends –   USA Drug History –  

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 comments to Does Rivers have a clearer picture of the Prime Minister? On the legalizing of marijuana he certainly thinks so.

  • Speaking only to the pot issue, I’m very much for its medicinal use and against its recreational use. However, criminalizing it only makes more criminals. And, it is not itself a “gateway drug” except that: While it is criminalized its distribution is in the hands of people who want the buyer to try the harder, addictive, and expensive drugs; and, since people buying pot are aware they are already in a criminal status they may well decide to try other drugs while there.

    We are already seeing a sharp increase in traffic accidents and deaths due to distracted driving. I’m not in favor of adding another distraction to the list.

  • Bill Boyd

    At a distance, Ray, I’m guessing that your Mr. Trudeau, thus, far, in your judgement, is earning what we used to term “a gentleman’s C.”

    My hope is that Canada remains in many areas progressive enough to coax and nudge the American behemoth to do right by its own people (as in “of the people…”) and to pursue policy that affects humanely the rest of the world, both animate and non-animate. Thanks for the column, Ray. I continue to appreciate your growing primer on the politics, etc. of Canada.

  • Ray Rivers

    Gary – thanks for your comment. The point is that Canada would likely have been elected to the Security Council had Harper not been so one-sided in his middle-eastern policies.

  • Gary

    Here is another way Trudeau differs from Harper, you never saw Harper running around taking selfies with everybody. And, just for the record, Canada did not support the U.N. resolution you are referring to because it was sponsored in and by the Security Council of which Canada is not a member.

  • steve

    Love him or hate him, you have to admit, Trump is keeping his promises and implementing them as soon as possible. I hate career politicians, their only real concern is maintaining their own gravy boat, and that of their party. They are not honest, they are self serving opportunists.