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.

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

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

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

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. Clause 5. Mr. Testart.

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

May 31st, 2018

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I move that Schedule A to Bill 6 be amended by adding the following after subsection 5(1):

(1.1) Before the Minister designates a person to act as a vendor under subsection (1), the Minister shall ensure that the person meets the prescribed criteria.

(1.2) If a person meets the prescribed criteria, the Minister shall designate that person to act as a vendor unless the Minister provides a reasonable justification for not doing so.

(1.3) The Minister shall not require that, in order for a person to be designated as a vendor under subsection (1), the person must also be designated as a vendor under subsection 34(1) of the Liquor Act. 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. Testart. A motion has been made. The motion is being distributed. The motion is in order. To the motion. Mr. Testart.

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
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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. This motion represents the work of the committee, and it is one of the motions that committee agreed to bring forward, that was passed at the clause-by-clause review, and that the honourable Minister of Justice did not concur with. I am bringing it forward again to reflect the work of committee and to reflect the common policy objectives that the committee agreed were important and that Bill 6 must contain.

This amendment to the bill will allow for the immediate designation of vendors outside of the Liquor Commission system. Granted, regulations will need to be developed to ensure that those vendors have prescribed criteria. Although this does not speak to specific regulations, it is more appropriate that the government address that, should this pass.

The Alberta model of private retail has extensive regulations for vendors that have already been set out. For example, you can't have a criminal record, and you have to have a credible business interest. I believe that the committee developed this because of the concerns we heard from the public. Just to put it into context, even in some communities or some segments of the population who weren't completely sold that legal cannabis would be safer or achieve those public safety objectives, they were so concerned about a lack of economic activity in the Northwest Territories that they saw this as something that could boost their local communities, that could create jobs and create an economic opportunity.

Further, when you look at what this bill is designed to do, it's not going to make the black market disappear overnight. That's unrealistic, and I have heard criticism of these approaches. Even the whole legalization effort started by the federal government, that "you're joking if you think the black market is going to vanish." Of course, it's not going to vanish overnight, Mr. Chair, but it will give us better tools to deal with it than we currently have. Without tools like this that will allow for the wide distribution of cannabis in a legal market on a controlled basis, I fear that we will not effectively disrupt the black market.

One of the examples that stuck with me when we engaged stakeholders in the community of Tuktoyaktuk, one of the town councillors told us that they had recently started bringing flats of beer into the community, and they were able to increase the supply and lower the cost, and that had largely relieved many of the serious problems that they had seen in the community because of abuse of hard liquor. They had changed behaviour by making the supply more accessible. When we asked, "Well, what would you propose to do with cannabis?" they said, "The exact same thing." Open a store. Make it cheap. Make it available. If we do not change the legislation to allow that, we are going to end up in the same situation.

My honourable friend from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh said it better than I ever could, and I really respect the position he's coming from. He's seen it all, as have many others, but where he's coming from is exactly the concern, that we are creating a two-tiered system. We are creating regional monopolies through liquor stores that will be run by the Liquor Commission and relying on mail order in communities where people don't have Visas, where the shipping is high, and the cost isn't going to go down. There will be no incentive to switch from bootleggers and drug dealers.

We need to do better, and this motion will allow us to do better. It will bring about private cannabis stores far quicker than the government's current agenda and allow us to disrupt the black market, to put economic opportunities into the communities, and to keep people safe, and that's exactly what the committee wanted to achieve when we agreed on this amendment. I hope that we see the support today, when we vote on it, that we did when we worked together to develop it. 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
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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Testart. To the motion. Mr. Vanthuyne.

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
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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I understand that this motion was developed by committee as a response to the government's stated policy decision to refrain from granting vendors' rights to any vendor other than liquor store vendors for at least two years. The fact that the Minister declined to concur with the amendment demonstrates to me the degree to which the GNWT wants to ensure their authority to implement their policy to see cannabis sold only through liquor stores for at least two years. As I noted yesterday, Mr. Chair, the trenches will be dug after two years, and there will be no getting out.

For me, this begs the question why. As I suggested, again, in my remarks yesterday, I believe the government is determined to reserve cannabis revenue for its own coffers to the greatest extent possible. There is nothing in Bill 6 right now that requires the Minister to give fair consideration to private citizens who want to become legal cannabis vendors. We must simply trust the government when they say that they will consider opening the sales model to private vendors. The committee's motion would ensure that private vendors are given fair consideration right from the start.

We have heard the government say that they don't anticipate cannabis revenues to be all that significant. In fact, in this year's budget address, the Minister of Finance said, "Early estimates indicate that revenues from cannabis for the GNWT will be modest and that there are likely to be some increased expenditure pressures."

Contrast that with the following observation from the chief economist at CIBC World Markets who said, "If businesses are allowed to set-up cannabis shops and compete in the same way that other retailers do, Canadians could be buying as much as $10 billion worth of marijuana products a year." By that estimate, the Canadian cannabis market is expected to bring in $1 billion more per year than the $9 billion in beer sales that occur annually in Canada right now. That says a lot. At least one industry analyst predicts that the Canadian cannabis market is more likely to be closer to $20 billion a year in sales.

My point, Mr. Chair, is that by its insistence on selling cannabis through liquor stories, the GNWT is denying NWT retailers who are not already liquor vendors the opportunity to enter this market at the outset, with the opportunity to learn and grow alongside liquor vendors who choose to sell cannabis and to reap a fair share of the profits. Mr. Chair, I will be supporting the committee's motion because it will, not prevent the GNWT from selling cannabis through liquor stores, but it will ensure that other entrepreneurs who meet the criteria and requirements set out in regulations will be given fair consideration in their applications to become cannabis vendors. I believe strongly in the entrepreneurial spirit of this territory and the capabilities of northern businesspeople, and I believe they can rise to meet whatever conditions are set by the GNWT. 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. Vanthuyne. Next, we have Mr. Thompson.

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
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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair the committee developed this motion as a way to address the government's position that they would only grant cannabis vendor licences to liquor store operators for the first two years after legalization. My constituents want to see cannabis stores in communities that don't have liquor stores. The only way to make sure this happens is to put a requirement in the act that obligates the Minister to consider all eligible vendor applications, not just those from liquor store operations. That's what this motion would do. It gives the Minister the discretion to not approve an application from someone who is not qualified or who does not meet the established criteria, but it prevents the government from giving a monopoly to liquor stores.

A lot has been said about whether the Minister will have to develop the criteria now or in six months or in two years. This is a red herring. The government will develop the regulations as soon as possible if they have to. What matters is, once legalization takes place, without committee's motion, the government can develop the regulations, but they'll have absolutely no obligation to consider applications from anyone other than the liquor store owners.

Mr. Chair, in my riding that I represent, Acho Dene First Nations has already sent a letter to the government and asked to put a store in their community. Why should they, you ask? They're two and a half hours away from BC. If we're going to go with this model, what the government's going to do, they're not going to mail order. They're not going to drive to Fort Simpson. They're going to drive to BC. They're going to access the cannabis when they want to. The community wants to have this opportunity to put it in their community, so the revenue stays in the north. Unfortunately, if we continue this action that the government has proposed in this bill, we're not going to see that.

The Minister of Justice talks about online. Great, we're going to have online. Well you know what? If they're going to go online, and they have access the credit cards or the ability to do online, they're not going to go to the liquor store in Hay River or Fort Simpson, or the Liquor Commission, wherever that is going to go based out of. They are going to go online down south. So we're going to not only miss the taxation and the revenue, it's going to go down south. We see that right now with opportunities to buy stuff online. You can do it now. So without having this opportunity, we're missing that.

This here is coming from the communities. It's not my decision, because I'm not in the business. I'm here to represent the people from Nahendeh, and this is what they've asked. Mr. Chair, they want business opportunities that could come with cannabis stores. They want to be given a chance. Right now, in the Deh Cho, or in Nahendeh, there's limited opportunity. We don't have the opportunities that Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, Yellowknife have. The economy is not great. Here was an opportunity to, one, develop a business; and two, put people to work.

It's unfortunate some people on Cabinet side don't understand that. Some don't, some laugh about it, and it irritates me. Some people over there are serious about it, they understand that, they've been in the small communities, but it's about putting people to work, and if we don't do that, I know you like income support, well, I'd love to see you guys live on it. People want that opportunity to work, and I think this is an opportunity to do that. For that reason, I'm supporting this motion and calling on my colleagues who worked with me to develop it to do the same. 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 Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Thompson. Next, we have Mr. Beaulieu.

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
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Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I will be supporting committee's motion in this area. I have my reasons for supporting it: it is to be able to have a safe supply of cannabis to all residents of the Northwest Territories, not to only some residents of the Northwest Territories. I can assure Cabinet that, if this motion is not passed, you will be supporting the illegal trade of marijuana in small communities. There is no reason in the world, there's no reason in the world for an individual to fly all the way to a liquor store to be able to buy, and they can't even pick up marijuana for their friends, because of the limit that is there. So everybody has to fly in to a community to get their own. What is going to be the option? The option is going to be to either buy it online or buy illegally. So for the people who don't have Visas out there, and I've talked many times, when you have 40 per cent employment rates, you don't have many Visas flying around in the community, Mr. Chair, and if they were to get a Visa, if they were to be lucky enough to have a job and get a Visa and want to smoke legal marijuana, they will buy it from somewhere else. They'll order it places where they're not selling it for $10 a gram, because that's what the market, that's what the government sets the price at, and everybody else is going to set the price at the market rate. The illegal drug dealers are going to have a better sense of what the market is than the government.

We have to let the people start up vendors in the communities so they could stay within the market and they could provide legal pot to people, safe pot to people. There's a feeling that there are going to be stores, pot stores popping up all over the community. That ain't gonna happen. There's not enough business for that. Not going to happen. And if it does, at least they'll be paying taxes back to the government coffers instead of putting illegal money in their pocket.

If we approve what the government is saying, we are supporting the illegal trade of pot. There's no question about it. I think everybody knows that, but for some reason or another people are bound to the fact that they think that there's going to be pot stores popping up all over, and everybody's going to start smoking marijuana. That's not necessarily going to happen. That ain't gonna happen. There's a reason that it's being restricted to only certain communities; there's a reason that it's only going in to liquor stores. If it's not what the honourable colleague from Yellowknife North said, that the government wants to keep all of the tax dollars for themselves, then it must be what? I just can't understand, unless the other reason is a lack of understanding of what the lay of the land is as far as this product goes in the Northwest Territories. It is unbelievable. It ain't gonna happen. It we don't pass this committee, then we are supporting the illegal trade of marijuana. In the whole North, you will hear that, and that's how it's going to be set up. Everybody's going to know that this government is passing a bill that supports the illegal trade of marijuana by restricting it to only certain communities and leaving the small communities, the 27 other communities that we went out and heard from, that said that this is what we want to see. Mr. Chairman, I request a recorded vote. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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. Beaulieu. Next on the list, we have Mr. Simpson.

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
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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I don't like this motion. I find it too prescriptive, but I am in support of it because our alternative is subservience to what I believe is a wrong-headed policy position for all of the reasons mentioned by Mr. Beaulieu and Mr. Vanthuyne, and I have nothing further to say. 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
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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

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

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
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Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I do not support this motion because the communities that I represent did not explicitly tell me to take this position. As I stated in the outset, speaking on this Bill 6, is people want a level of control. They want a level of control or government has control, and therefore position the communities to have control. I disagree with the comments that were made earlier. We can't really predict and crystal-ball this and place hypothetical situations over our heads and predict what may happen. We don't know that, but I do know that I support Bill 6 because it's predicated on the idea of stomping out the illegal drug trade. That's the initial intention and spirit of Bill 6. I understand the federal government is proposing this legal framework because, in the end, they have primacy in terms of enforcing the control and sales of marijuana and cannabis, and, therefore, I don't support this motion. Mahsi.