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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Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

May 31st, 2018

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Chair, I move that Schedule A to Bill 6 be amended by deleting subsection 5(1) and substituting the following:

(1) The Minister shall, where the Minister considers it to be in the public interest, designate a person to act as a vendor in a particular community for the operation of a cannabis store and the sale of cannabis in that community.

(1.1) The Minister shall, within six months after the coming into force of this subsection, recommend that the Commissioner make regulations prescribing criteria to guide the Minister in considering whether the designation of a person as a vendor is in the public interest.

(1.2) The criteria referred to in subsection (1.1) must not establish a condition that a person first be designated as a vendor under subsection 34(1) of the Liquor Act in order to be designated as a vendor under subsection (1).

(1.3) Notwithstanding subsection (1.1), the Minister may designate a vendor before the regulations referred to in subsection (1.1) have been made.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Simpson. The motion has been made. The motion is being distributed. The motion is in order. To the motion. Mr. Simpson.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, this motion is what some would call a compromise, what some would call better than nothing, and what some may call nothing more than a smokescreen.

Many Members of this House and many members of the public have expressed a desire for private sales of cannabis and the opportunity to sell cannabis in all communities in the NWT. However, as the bill is written, it gives the Minister of Finance broad discretion, seemingly the broadest discretion available under the law, as to who he designates as a cannabis vendor, and this government has made it clear that it wishes to limit cannabis sales to liquor stores.

Unlike the motion that just failed, this one would not force the Minister's hand, and that is why some may consider this motion a farce. What this motion would do, if successful, is require the government to make regulations prescribing criteria to guide the Minister when considering whether it is in the public interest to designate a person as a vendor.

This does little to fetter the Minister's discretion as it will be the department that develops the regulations, but it at least provides clarity to entrepreneurs so they know what criteria their applications will be based on, and it allows for much more transparent decision-making process. The motion also ensures that one of those criteria will not be that a cannabis vendor must already be a liquor vendor, which addresses the concern raised by some that such a regulation would be made, and it mirrored the provision in the motion that just failed.

The motion states that the criteria must be developed within six months. If this motion is successful, I will move another one later that would see that six-month provision come into force on assent, meaning tomorrow, in all likelihood. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Next, we have Mr. Vanthuyne.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, this motion was actually floated by the government earlier this week, and, quite frankly, it was "a compromise alternative to the committee's motion that was just defeated."

Mr. Chair, this is not a compromise, in my mind. This is a tactic by the government designed to undermine the work of the standing committees. As we have just seen by the defeat of the previous motion, the tactic appears to have worked. I want to be perfectly clear about the effect of this motion, Mr. Chair. The motion requires the Minister to bring in regulations within six months "prescribing criteria to guide the Minister in considering whether the designation of a person as a vendor is in the public interest."

The government seems to have convinced some Members that this six-month timeline is a compromise over the two-year period the government first said it would adhere to when Bill 6 was introduced. What was apparently not made clear was that, while the committee's motion would have obligated the Minister to give fair consideration to all vendor applications that meet the prescribed criteria, this motion gives the Minister full discretion in determining whether or not a vendor designation is in the public interest. If the Minister determines that it is in the public interest only to designate liquor store vendors to sell cannabis, and that it is not in the public interest to designate private vendors, then, even with prescribed criteria in place within six months, there is still no obligation on the GNWT to open up the sales of cannabis beyond liquor stores. A tactic, Mr. Chair, not a compromise.

I will not be supporting this motion, which makes little meaningful improvement over the original subsection in Bill 6. Again, I am deeply disappointed that it does not have the effect of bringing an end to the government's plan to sell cannabis only through liquor stores at the outset of legalization, and I intend to work hard to push this government to move in that direction as quickly as possible. Those are my comments. I will not be in support. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
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 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, the government is calling this motion a compromise because they would be required to develop regulations in six months. This isn't a compromise. It is a bait and switch. This government is trying to bamboozle Members so that they don't really see what is going on. What is really going on is that this government's motion leaves all the power in the hands of the Minister to grant vendor licences to liquor stores only. That's the part that they don't want committee to change. I can't say it any plainer than that.

Six months, one year, two years, it doesn't matter when the government makes regulations because their motion says they will use the regs to "decide what is in the public interest." They have already done that. They think it is in the public interest to have cannabis sold only in liquor stores, but what they know is that this is the government's interest because almost all of the revenue will come to the government. Government may put regulations in place, but they don't have any obligation to use them.

I cannot support this motion because it gives too much discretion to the Minister to implement the sale model that is not consistent with what my constituents want, and, at the end of the day, that's what matters to me. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Next, we have Mr. Testart. Oh, sorry, Mr. Thompson. Next, we have Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think it's telling when the mover of this motion has to characterize it in debate as a smokescreen in addition to other things. To address the strong feelings committee members are going to have says something about the nature of this compromise, quite frankly, the preoccupation with the Minister in debate over the last motion that failed, with Ministerial control and Ministerial discretion being unduly fettered.

Committees don't propose motions half-baked. We consult with experts. In this case, we consulted with a legal expert. The legal opinion we received is that it is well within the boundaries of Canadian constitutional law to apply reasonable limitations on Ministerial discretion. This reverses that, and that seems to be the huge sticking point. I don't find comfort to see that a proposed two years has been reduced to six months. I think that's an attractive number for those of us who have been pushing the government to bring forward some sort of privatized rules sooner, but they could make that political commitment regardless of what was written in this legislation. I would like to think that they recognized the work that the standing committee did in advocating for this point and advocating for the need for regulations for private business and would do so anyway.

I'm not convinced that this is necessary. I'm not convinced that the wording of this, which seems to have taken what the committee's initial intention was and reworded it to protect the Minister's unilateral right, is reflective of what ought to be a process that reflects the need for privatization and respects the rights of Northerners to take risks. This is a paternalistic attitude, that we need government monopolies controlling our industries, we need to squeeze all the revenue out of legal cannabis into public coffers, and that, no, we're not going to let people take risks and fail because they will blame us at the end of the day.

That is not how entrepreneurs work. They are willing to take the risks, and they are willing to go out and do the research and get prepared for this. Many of them have. In our consultations, we heard from the NWT chamber which represents the entire territory, business community, the entire territory, and, the Chamber of Commerce of Yellowknife, they have been approached by people who want these opportunities, and this government is saying, "No, thanks. We'll keep all the revenues for ourselves." This motion is not going to change that, as much as they're trying to convince us that it will.

I again can't understand why we can't embrace our entrepreneurs, why we can't let them take the lead on cannabis. Why can't we give them the opportunity when our Liquor Commission system is far from perfect and there seems to be no willingness on the part of this government so far to really look into that? Look at the state of the Yellowknife Brew Pub, or NWT Brewing Company. It took them years to start making alcohol and working with the government to get them there. Are we really to believe in six months this government will be in a position to let someone open a cannabis store? I think not. I think the government has played its hand in defeating the previous motion and putting this one in place, which speaks to the public interest.

Mr. Chair, the plebiscite components of this legislation allow the public interest to be met through a plebiscite process that allows communities to control what goes on in their communities. The Minister doesn't need to decide for communities. The plebiscite exists. The bill has been amended to extend the window for plebiscites to ensure that proper notice is given. The Minister doesn't need to decide on behalf of communities, and that's what this is ensuring. The Minister needs to be in a position to accept that there will be people who will be qualified to sell cannabis as private retailers and should be allowed to do so. Obviously, that's not going to be the case.

It's a roundabout way of saying I won't be supporting this motion. Mr. Chair, at the appropriate time, I would like a recorded vote. Thank you.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Testart. Ms. Green.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I'm fond of saying that the biggest problem small business has in this territory is the Government of the Northwest Territories. This is not a government that is friendly to small business. It's a paternalistic government that is regulating small businesses into the ground. The irony is that they're gutless with big business, too. In any case, do they take us as fools? Do they really think that we consider this on par with what we have proposed in our amendment? This is not an acceptable compromise. The Minister does not need this kind of discretion. The prior motion did not fetter his discretion, according to a legal opinion we received. This motion is nonsense, and I will not be supporting it. Thank you.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Ms. Green. Next on our list, we have Minister Sebert.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Louis Sebert Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am pleased to support this motion as brought forward today. We are very grateful that our discussions with members of the joint standing committee following their thorough review of the bill have allowed us to arrive at a mutually agreeable approach. I didn't say "unanimously agreeable," reasonable.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Nay, nay.

Committee Motion 60-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 5(1), Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Louis Sebert Thebacha

Reasonably agreeable approach, I will say, to the issue of designating vendors. Bill 6, as originally proposed, did allow for the designation of a range of vendors. It supported our plan for retail to initially occur through the Liquor Commission and the existing well-regulated liquor store regime, but there was no barrier to the designation of other vendors in the future, once the shape of the market became more evident, and there was an opportunity to provide, properly provide, for matters relating to security, health and safety, and determining community support. This motion does that. It will require that regulations be developed within six months that will assist the Minister in consideration of the public interest in respect of the designation of vendors.

We recognize the interest in providing business development opportunities to residents of the NWT but are also mindful of the guiding principles that were developed at the beginning of the legalization process, that we must ensure a safe and secure retail regime that reduces the black market and that restricts youth access.

This motion as revised will provide clarity for those interested in becoming vendors in the future while also requiring consideration of the public interests in any decision to designate a vendor going forward. Mr. Chair, I am happy to support this motion. It gives us a better bill. Cabinet will be voting in favour. Thank you.