This is page numbers 4103 - 4182 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was going.

Topics

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Nadli. Next on the list, we have Mr. Sebert.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have a number of concerns about the proposed motion, and, if it fails, there may be an opportunity to accomplish its objectives without the negatives associated with the particular language. We do understand the motivation to see other private retail options to be open sooner rather than later. I think we need to be very careful not to suggest that there's a huge market waiting to be captured with lucrative returns to be had. The prices must be set in a way that can displace the illegal market.

Everyone should appreciate that it is going to be a challenging operating environment for legitimate enterprises. Unlike organized crime and other existing dealers, legitimate businesses must pay staff, payroll, income and property taxes, provide training, pay insurance, pay WSCC premiums, get business licences, comply with zoning requirements, pay rent and utilities. Cannabis retailers will also have to compete with legitimate mail-order and online options that may indeed turn out to be the preferred retail option of most consumers. Convenience and, frankly, anonymity are attractive features of mail order.

All cannabis retailers in the NWT will also have to buy their products through the Liquor Commission, acting as the wholesaler, to ensure that there is a safe, well-regulated, and approved supply. To meet our objectives, this has to be a regulated product that is treated differently than other products commonly available through many retail channels. I would stress again that the majority of respondents to the GNWT's extensive public engagement expressed a preference for the liquor store model to be used in retail for cannabis. As I mentioned earlier when I was quoting the figures, it was not a huge majority by any means, but that seemed to be the preferred option. I still think this makes sense, to provide a safe and professional retail option on legalization day and to provide for an expanded marketplace shortly thereafter.

To that point, I would emphasize that the bill already provides for other options, and, if this motion does not pass and another is brought, we would make that explicitly clear and we would establish full and fair criteria that any potential cannabis retailer would have to plan for. What is being proposed through this motion as written is the elimination of ministerial discretion to consider important questions about how, when, and where these additional retail options would proceed. Approval of cannabis stores should not be a mere rubber-stamp, bureaucratic formality. This is an important concern. Ministerial discretion is always subject to review for abuse of discretion, but, where broad policy issues require careful consideration, Ministers must be free to act based on the best interests of the residents they serve and on the conceptions of the public good. This is how the system is supposed to work.

As noted above, we do support prescribing criteria for cannabis stores, which should include, to list but a few, their location; where are the new stores proposed to be established; what they can sell; should they be able to sell toys, candy, cannabis; does the community support the addition of new stores; what are the security requirements for the new store for staff, customers, and security of the stock; what are the inspection requirements for the new store; what should the hours of operation for the stores be; what should the training requirements for staff be. These questions quickly come to mind. Undoubtedly, there are many other considerations that should be applied, and it is our intention to do the work necessary and as quickly as possible to address those considerations.

Residents want cannabis stores to be well regulated, with matters related to health and safety and community support to be fully considered. I fear that this motion would undo the key element of having opportunity for the public interest to be carefully considered with each application for a new store. The explicit "unless the Minister provides a reasonable justification requirement," when read together with the rest of the provisions, would not preserve the necessary ability of the Minster to fully exercise his discretion in the public interest. At least, it is far from clear that it would.

This language is not used in any other legislation that I am aware of and certainly not anywhere in territorial legislation, or the legislation of other Canadian jurisdictions. It would be unfortunate, for example, if the Minister was forced to designate a vendor over the legitimate concerns of the community.

Mr. Chairperson, our thinking has evolved. We accept the objectives of the motion but not the constraint placed upon Ministerial discretion. If this motion does not pass, we will support an alternative version that achieves the same ends while recognizing Canadian principles of executive government.

To conclude, when we went out and were seeking the views of the public, there were many different options that the public looked at and the liquor store model seemed to receive significant support. Cabinet will be voting against this motion, thank you.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Sebert. Next we have Mr. O'Reilly.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I have a confession that I want to start with. At first, I supported the liquor retail model, but I changed my mind based on the input that we've heard. I'm going to come at this very differently than some of my colleagues, but I do agree and support the work of the committee on this. Although I did hear that there were some individuals who supported or wanted private retail stores, I do think that the claims of economic opportunities are probably greater than they are really going to turn out to be, especially around retail. There may be some opportunities around production, but I am worried about raising unrealistic expectations around economic opportunities, particularly with regard to retail.

I want to go and just look at what is in the existing bill. The only conditions that are being placed on who can become a vendor are that you can't be a minor, you can only sell cannabis that is authorized by the federal government, you have to keep records, there may be some additional things required by regulation, and you probably have to enter an agreement with the Minister.

Those were the only conditions in the existing bill, but the Minister may designate a person to act as a vendor in a particular community. That's total and unfettered discretion. The Minister can decide whoever can become a vendor, total and unfettered discretion, and I don't think that's appropriate. What we are left with is trying to deal with a policy decision through a legal amendment, and it is kind of a difficult position to be put in.

I want to point out that the amendment that we are talking about here, there's nothing in this amendment that prevents sale of cannabis through the liquor retail system. The government can continue to do that. If that's what the policy direction is, this amendment will still allow that to happen. What it would require is that the government actually develop a set of regulations, to set out in a clear and transparent manner what the prescribed criteria are. It would force the government's hand to actually set those out in a clear and transparent fashion, set up a process for doing that, and presumably, it would be a public process where the development of those regulations would take place. Anybody who meets those prescribed conditions would get a licence to sell. They could be the sorts of things that the Minister of Justice talks about, whether it's security or lack of a criminal record or whatever. All of those things could be laid out in a clear and transparent fashion, and I think that's what this government should be doing right now.

As I said, I come at this a lot differently. I am very concerned about the Minister having total and unfettered discretion, and that's what this is about. It's about ministerial authority and discretion. To me, that is a key issue here, and I'm not prepared to give the Minister that much authority over something that's brand new. Absolutely not. I'm going to be voting in favour of this. Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. O'Reilly. Next on our list, we have Mr. McNeely.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think we said right from the start that, as we proceed forward in this very unknown market, we're probably not going to get it right. Right now, I think we can all agree in this room here that cannabis is not being sold here. It's being brought in to all 33 communities from other sources outside, south of the 60th parallel, or west or east or north, but there is no supply point here.

Assuming that we didn't have the system of alcohol sales, would we have designated these six communities as cannabis suppliers? Probably not. It's the system that we have and the tools that we have on delivering programs and services.

Having said that, I can't see myself, in consultation with some people in my region and listening to them as well, supporting this motion. As much as I respect everybody's opinion, I hope everybody would respect mine. Thank you.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. McNeely. Mr. Nakimayak.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I won't be long. Earlier, in the opening comments, I mentioned that I wouldn't support this, and I think all of us who sit here, our time up in this Assembly is done in 2019. I think we need to look beyond that.

Earlier, I mentioned that, if the government is in control, it is something that could be controlled by the government and the government can take responsibility for. If we look at something like this that is being proposed, it would become the wild, wild west, and I don't think that's the right way to go. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Nakimayak. To the motion.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Question.

Committee Motion 59-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Question has been called. The Member has requested a recorded vote. All those in favour?

Recorded Vote
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Deputy Clerk Of The House Ms. Kay

The Member for Kam Lake, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, the Member for Nahendeh, the Member for Frame Lake, the Member for Yellowknife Centre, the Member for Hay River North, the Member for Yellowknife North.

Recorded Vote
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

All those opposed?

Recorded Vote
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Deputy Clerk Of The House Ms. Kay

The Member for Deh Cho, the Member for Nunakput, the Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, the Member for Range Lake, the Member for Great Slave, the Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, the Member for Hay River South, the Member for Thebacha, the Member for Sahtu.

Recorded Vote
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

All those abstaining, please rise. The results of the recorded vote: seven in favour, nine opposed, zero abstentions.

---Defeated

Clause 5. Mr. Simpson.