Profiles by Cannabiz Social Podcast - Chris Montgomery
Chris Montgomery is a communications and government relations expert. He spent eight years in the Canadian Senate where he was Director of Parliamentary Affairs, Office of the Leader of the Government.
In this episode of “Profiles by Cannabiz Social”, Chris discusses Bill C-45 as it passes through the upper house of Parliament. In doing so, he explains the role the Senate plays to improve legislation and the likelihood independent Senators will delay or defeat the Cannabis Act.
So, will the Senate act as the chamber providing a "sober second thought" or will it go against a popular bill that is favoured by a majority of Canadians?
Bill C-45 is a piece of government legislation that would legalize access to cannabis in Canada. The bill would also control and regulate how cannabis is grown, distributed and sold. Bill C-45 was introduced in the Senate and given first reading on November 28, 2017. It was passed in the House of Commons on November 27, 2017.
Canadians may be waiting until the fall to legally purchase recreational marijuana, as senators are holding a final vote by June 7 on the legislation ushering in the legal cannabis regime in Canada. Under the assumption the bill is passed, it would take a couple months for legal marijuana to be available for purchase.
To Montgomery, the bill is interesting. “It’s like other highly politicized issues that come before the senate. Senators often struggle with what it is their role should be and how they exercise that role and were seeing that play out in the press. Some have concerns, some feel the bill should process and have bene threatened to defeat that legislation. They have a role to play and improve upon legislation and how it functions and provide advice to the government. It’s not really their role to be questioning what the government is trying to accomplish overall and it’s not their role to unnecessarily delay or defeat the bill,” he explained.
The role for government and the bill is that the government indicates it wants a piece of legislation in a certain amount of time. It indicates behind the scene concerns, what would be acceptable and not be. One of the challenges, according to Montgomery is the current prime minister has been appointing independence to the senate and it takes away political accountability that you see when the senate was controlled by political parties.
“The rhetoric and temptation is there for them to act independently,” he said, adding, “I think there’s legitimate desire on some to delay the bill.”
When asked what happens if senate does delay the bill: “Government wouldn’t have a lot of options. The risk to senators, is they will take political hit themselves and the institution will come under fire from Canadians. Not only does the government have a political mandate to bring in to legislation, you have the whole legal injustice system – federally, provincially, municipally, all prepared and ready to go. If the senate were to delay, it would create a lot of strain within in the county. Senate would be unwise to make this decision.”
He’s hopeful people are working with senators to get the bill approved, and that cooler heads will prevail. He also made the recommendation to sit down with senators advocating for the views of in the industry, and what’s important to the industry. Unlike the House of Commons, the senate is a lot more structured. To be successful, you really have to go one by one through the senate to those that have important voices in regards to this particular debate.
“If I had to guess, it will ultimately go through,” he predicted. It’s up to the cannabis space to go in and inform and educate not only the senators and people within government, but the whole country so they come to understand the true benefits of cannabis and reverse the narrative.