Pubdate: Wed, 12 Aug 2015
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2015 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Allison Jones
Page: A1


Harper Talks Up Tough-On-Drugs Policy

With the curtain about to rise on the climactic second act of the 
Mike Duffy trial, Justin Trudeau promised Tuesday to clean up the 
scandal-tainted Senate, while Stephen Harper set his sights on 
neighbourhood drug labs.

The Liberal leader vowed to clean up the prime minister's "mess," 
accusing Harper of leading the "most secretive, divisive and 
hyperpartisan government in Canada's history."

That mess, of course, is the Senate, and in particular Duffy's trial, 
which was scheduled to enter its most explosive phase today with none 
other than Nigel Wright, Harper's former chief of staff, as the first 
witness. Wright, Harper's former chief of staff, is the man who 
provided Duffy with $90,000 of his own money to repay his disallowed 
housing and travel expenses. The former Conservative senator has 
pleaded not guilty to 31 charges including fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

Trudeau, determined to keep the Conservative scandal top of mind for 
Canadians, spoke Tuesday of transparency, saying it would be a 
fundamental principle in a Liberal government.

He also promised to bring in a merit-based appointment process to the Senate.

Harper, meanwhile, tried to avoid being drawn back into the Duffy 
fray with yet another policy announcement - his fifth with the 
11-week campaign still in its infancy - before travelling to B.C. and 
later northern Canada.

Harper promised a 20-per-cent increase in funding - to almost $27 
million a year - to help the RCMP target marijuana grow-ops and meth 
labs and another $500,000 a year over four years on a national 
toll-free hotline for parents to get information about drug use among 
the country's youth.

And he took the opportunity to score some points on Trudeau, who has 
already pledged his support for legalizing marijuana.

In jurisdictions where marijuana is legal, such as parts of the U.S. 
and Europe, the drug becomes "more readily available to children, 
more people become addicted," and there is a decline in health 
outcomes, Harper said.

"We just think that's the wrong direction for society and I don't 
think that's the way most Canadians want to deal with this particular problem."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, however, was more interested in Harper's 
travel itinerary, in particular the fact he was getting as 
geographically far away from Ottawa as possible.

"I do find it interesting that Mr. Harper has decided to try to hide 
out in the North Pole during the Mike Duffy trial this week," Mulcair said.

"On a whole series of subjects, Mr. Harper has said one thing and its 
opposite in the Mike Duffy affair. You can't say one thing and then 
its opposite and have them both be true. A lot of that is going to be 
catching up with Mr. Harper this week. He can run but he can't hide."

Mulcair later confirmed he would participate in a bilingual Munk 
Debate on foreign affairs, after having said he would only be there 
if Harper was and if there would be an equal number of debates in 
both official languages.

Confusion, however, continued to reign Tuesday. The Conservatives 
have agreed to participate, and while the Liberals have said they 
would be there on Sept. 28, they have yet to confirm their attendance.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May was not invited.

While campaigning in Quebec, a province the NDP dominated in 2011, 
Mulcair got some welcome news: one of the province's largest and 
sovereigntist-leaning labour federations has dropped its longstanding 
endorsement of the Bloc Quebecois and some of its member unions are 
supporting the New Democrats.

Mulcair said he will "work hard to maintain the support" of unions in 
Quebec in order to "expand our traditional base and rally 
progressives across Quebec and Canada."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom