Cannabis debate model creates better bills, says Senator Harder
The Senate voted 56-30 – with 1 abstention – to approve the bill on Thursday.
The innovative debate leading to the final Senate vote on legislation to legalize cannabis is a victory for building a more modern Senate that allows Canadians to follow along as Senators help craft better laws.
The review and passage of Bill C-45, along with 46 Senate amendments, was the product of a process which created an ordered, daily debate, allowing Canadians to keep closer track of a bill with extreme importance to millions across the country, said Senator Peter Harder, the Government Representative in the Senate.
The third reading debate was divided into daily themes and drew upon five indepth committee studies that heard collectively from 240 witnesses, including key ministers, over the course of nearly 50 meetings.
“The Senate has always done important work, but this process helps Canadians follow what we’re doing with more ease and confidence,” said Sen. Peter Harder. “That’s good for democracy.”
Sen. Harder praised all four groups in the Senate – non-affiliated Senators, the Independent Senators Group, the Conservative Party and the Independent Liberals – for co-operating in the process, which he hoped would become a template for further debates. The four groups also agreed on an established date for a final vote on the legislation, which Sen. Harder said precluded the need to use closure to end the debate.
Sen. Harder has proposed creating a new business committee for the Senate which would make regular use of the process used for the cannabis debate. He said that Senate debates can sometimes be difficult for the public to follow and votes can be delayed under the current system.
The debate on cannabis included a number of innovations, including;
- Appearance of key ministers in front of the whole Senate at second reading, allowing more Senators to have an opportunity to ask questions.
- An indepth study that drew on the expertise of five separate committees.
- Eight separate ministerial appearances in front of various committees.
- A six-day third reading debate divided by themes, making for a more logical and easy-to-follow process
- Early sharing of amendments by Senators, allowing for a more informed debate.
- A set date for the final vote (June 7).
Sen. Harder thanked Independent Senator Tony Dean – the bill’s sponsor – for his strong advocacy on behalf of a structured debate, as well as other leaders for having being open to the idea.
“I think this is something we can use for the future,” said Sen. Harder. “I think it creates confidence among Canadians that we’re doing our job seriously, efficiently and with an eye to pursuing their best interests.”