Election 2015: Q&A with the Kootenay-Columbia candidates, part 6: marijuana and party loyalty.

This is the sixth and final edition of our candidate Q&A.

  • Oct. 15, 2015 9:00 a.m.

Every Friday, the Nelson Star has been bringing you responses to a series of questions posed to the four candidates in the Kootenay-Columbia riding. The questions were compiled by Black Press editors throughout the riding. The final questions are:

1. What’s your position on the legalization/ decriminalization of marijuana?

2. If you were being to forced to vote along party lines for/against a bill you strongly opposed/supported because of what you believed to be best for your constituents, what would you do?

 

DON JOHNSTON

Liberal Party

1. The Liberal Party will legalize marijuana if elected. The current system has proven to be a complete disaster and a recent World Health Organization survey of developed countries found that Canada has the highest number of teenage users.

Clearly prohibition is failing to protect children and it also continues to support the gang culture that controls marijuana. In jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana we have seen drops in petty crimes, no increase in the numbers of people using marijuana and huge income from taxes.

We need to legalize, research and educate so individuals are making well informed decisions. We will use the best practices of places who have already taken this step and move slowly to ensure an effective implementation of the distribution and control regime.

 

2. The biggest challenge currently for MPs comes from the use of omnibus bills forcing MPs to support them because they are part of the budget. We will discontinue this practice and the only votes the Liberal party would ask MPs to support will be budget bills, platform issues where we have promised we would undertake certain actions if elected, and any motions that directly conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Outside of these specific issues we will have freedom to vote in a manner that supports the aspirations of our constituents. If, somehow, an issue came up outside these particular expectations that the party decided to for whatever reason to try to whip the vote and I believed it to be in contravention of my personal convictions and what was best for my constituents I would not hesitate to vote against the party.

 

DAVID WILKS

Conservative Party

1. I am not in support of legalization of marijuana but do fully support the motion put forth by the Canadian Chiefs of Police that calls for a ticketable offence for those found in possession of small amounts of marijuana (one to 30 g). The Liberal Party plan is reckless and is a knee-jerk reaction to a serious problem in which they believe that if you tax marijuana all the problems will go away.

 

2. There are a number of different bills in parliament. Budget bills are votes of confidence and in those cases I would always vote with the party. The Conservative Party has the best record for allowing their members of parliament to vote freely on bills of non-confidence and I have exercised that right on a number of occasions. The NDP has the worst record of allowing their members to vote freely.

 

BILL GREEN

Green Party

1. I fully support the Green Party policy with respect to marijuana/cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use which is: legalize, research, educate.

Legalize so that the link between the production and sale of cannabis and drug gangs is severed. Research to carefully determine the full range of health/medicinal benefits and health risks.

Where scientific studies demonstrate health benefits and appropriate modes of use and dosages, medical marijuana should be brought fully within our regulated drug and medical system so that people needing cannabis treatment can obtain prescriptions from their family doctors and purchase treatments at their local drug store.

The Green Party national Pharmacare plan will then kick in so that cost is not a barrier to anyone needing therapeutic marijuana.

Physicians then need to be educated on the medicinal values of marijuana and all Canadians should be informed of the results of ongoing research about the health benefits and risks of various modes of cannabis use.

Decriminalization for possession is simply not good enough, as sale (trafficking) would remain a criminal offence and continue to associate access to marijuana with criminal gangs.

 

2. For a Green Party MP, this is not an issue. I would not be forced to vote along party lines. However, I would take the matter very seriously. The first question I would consider is what commitments I’d made to constituents, either during the election period or after. My vote would be based on any commitments I had made.

If I hadn’t made a commitment, I would then want to make sure that I had a good understanding of the interests of my constituents, through Internet polling, community meetings and conversations with local governments and organizations. Green MP Bruce Hyer was forced to leave the NDP after he voted against the long gun registry.

 

WAYNE STETSKI

New Democratic Party

1. An NDP government will decriminalize recreational use of marijuana. Our citizens should not be imprisoned for simple possession.

The NDP has held this position for about 40 years, and it is something the NDP has committed to taking action on immediately.

Medical marijuana, as already determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, should be available in a variety of forms. Smoking is a health hazard regardless of what you are smoking.

 

2. I believe strongly that a member of parliament’s role is first and foremost to represent the best interests of his or her constituents. And I understand that no matter what, my job will be to provide service and representation to all residents, regardless of what party they may support, or whom they voted for during the election.

Mr. Wilks declared in 2012 in Revelstoke that one MP cannot make a difference. He made this statement to a group of constituents who raised serious concerns about an omnibus bill that they felt would seriously damage our country. And Mr. Wilks agreed with them, until the party reminded him that his responsibility was not to have honest conversations with constituents, but simply to vote the party line.

I do not accept this. I believe that our democracy is too important, and our country is too valuable, to choose a candidate who readily admits that he does not have free will, that he will not vote in the best interest of his constituents.

A classic example of Mr. Wilks voting against the safety and security of his constituents was his support for Bill C-51, the Secret Police Bill. Mr. Wilks knows that the majority of his constituents adamantly opposed Bill C- 51, but he voted for it anyway. That, in my mind, is absolutely unacceptable.

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