Thank you, Mr. Chair. Before, I spoke as one of the co-chairs of the joint committee. Now, I will speak as a Regular Member and a representative for the constituents of Kam Lake. We often challenge the attitudes and policy direction of this government from this side of the House. The challenge can seem critical on days, but it comes from a good place. That place is: be ambitious. Be willing to embrace change when change is needed.
I have heard the Minister say in reply to nearly everyone's opening comments, "We didn't have a lot of time. We didn't have a lot of time." We had two years that we knew this was coming. Certainly, we didn't have the federal legislation to review, but there are jurisdictions in the United States. There is Alaska, which is a similar northern context; different economy, certainly. There are areas we could have looked at. There has been much said about Colorado's experience. There have been news reports about how their early cannabis implementation failed to achieve the public policy objectives.
There were steps we could have taken. Instead, the Minister and Cabinet delayed for as long as possible. They delayed until the federal legislation happened and waited until the committee had scant weeks to work together to improve the bill. From the degree of amendment to the bill, it clearly needed improvement. There were technical errors that needed to be addressed, which isn't uncommon, but just shows how rushed the entire process felt.
There was no need for this. I firmly believe that we could have embraced this as an opportunity to make our community safer, to generate some economic activity, to set zero tolerance for impaired drivers, to keep our kids safer than they have been in the history of us dealing with cannabis as a controlled substance. Those are good things, having an optimistic and ambitious attitude and a creative response.
Instead, for retail, we have the Liquor Commission, which is not a perfect system. Members have risen on the floor to criticize the liquor system consistently. Members of the public, members of my riding criticize the Liquor Commission, that it needs reform. Yet we are going to adopt the exact same structure to do cannabis now? I mean, we are not even talking about a system that works. We are talking about a system that needs reform that will now have another problem attached to it.
Our neighbours in the Yukon have a supply agreement. They have a price for cannabis. We can't get a straight answer on that. In the last budget round, when we knew cannabis was coming in months, we couldn't get a costed plan. Not a penny in that budget for cannabis that was clear and announced and gave the public confidence that the government was dealing with this responsibly.
Again, we have a massive bill dropped on us that has put many Members in an uncomfortable position to deal with something they weren't prepared for. We had two years to prepare for this. We could have applied a creative solution to get the best results possible. As my honourable friend from Hay River North has said, this is a government that is fundamentally conservative in its approach to policies.
I spoke to people who went to the cannabis engagement and spoke to public servants who were at the event representing the Department of Finance and said we are going to do the Liquor Commission. How is that a fair consultation that is taking into account what people have to say, if the government has prejudged the outcomes?
Then when we hit the road and speak to members of the community. They have no idea what is in the bill. It becomes our responsibility as Regular Members to provide public information for a massive societal shift. I don't accept the Minister's comments that we didn't have enough time.
He speaks of compromise. As other Members have said, we are all trying to work together and work on behalf of our people for the good of the Northwest Territories. Who is the Minister compromising with? Why do there necessarily have to be two sides of this House at this moment, when we could both be accepting a bill or a cannabis regime that has the best results for everyone intended?
The government has accepted the vast majority of the committee's amendments, the committee's improvements, to the bill. I acknowledge that, and thank the Minister and his colleagues for doing so and concurring with those so we have a more complete bill.
There are two motions that are outstanding that are of significant concern. They are backed up by the evidence. They are backed up by the consultations. They are backed up by what Members agree is the best way forward, and we can't do it because we are afraid of it, because we don't know how it is going to work, because we are not sure of the market.
I say we need to be bold. I say we need to be ambitious. I say we need to make this a transformative piece of legislation that is going to help keep our communities safe and help achieve the results that prohibition has never given Northerners and never given Canadians. This is an opportunity. We shouldn't be shying away or saying this was imposed on us. The policy direction came from Ottawa, but this is an opportunity for us to fix a problem in society with comprehensive legislation that has vision and can transform our society. That is what I am here to do, Mr. Chair. I hope that by the end of the proceedings today, we will have accomplished that. Thank you.