Pubdate: Fri, 21 Jul 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Nick Martin
Page: A3


Health minister rebuffs calls to delay legalization

THE federal government will stick with its July 1, 2018, deadline for
marijuana legalization despite concerns from Premier Brian Pallister
and other premiers.

Health Minister Jane Philpott said in Winnipeg on Thursday that civil
servants across Canada are already preparing for legalization and
there will not be an extension, which was requested by Pallister.

He has been adamant Manitoba won't be ready to cover the health,
justice, safety, sale and production issues that need to be met by
that time.

"It was a campaign commitment of our government," Philpott said. "We
are always interested in collaboration.

"At the officials' level, there's a tremendous amount of background
work being done."

Philpott met Thursday with provincial Health Minister Kelvin

While she wouldn't detail what aspects of legalizing marijuana she
discussed with Goertzen, she said Ottawa is concerned about "keeping
cannabis out of the hands of kids and the profits out of the hands of

On Wednesday, premiers from across Canada laid out five issues for the
federal government to clarify, such as enforcement and taxes, in order
for provinces to stick to the July 1 deadline to legalize marijuana.
Pallister had led the charge for an extension.

The federal Conservatives said Thursday the premiers were right to
push for more time because the Liberals hadn't laid out a specific pot
plan in their election platform.

"We now have legal questions from our premiers, we have implementation
questions, and the Liberals refuse to even entertain any of those
discussions," said federal Tory Leader Andrew Scheer.

Scheer agreed with Pallister's comments Wednesday, that legalizing
marijuana amid NAFTA renegotiations could threaten the trade deal.

"They don't have a plan to make sure that that doesn't affect the
negotiations," Scheer said.

In addition to marijuana, Philpott was asked about Manitoba being the
only province that has refused to sign the federal health accord.

She said she has given the order to direct hundreds of millions of
dollars to all provinces and territories - other than Manitoba - for
improved home care and mental-health services.

"We've very recently come to a common understanding with all of the
other provinces and territories on... the framework around the types
of projects in mental health and home care they're going to be doing
and we have proceeded with instructions for how this money is to begin
to flow," Philpott said.

She said she has not given Manitoba a deadline to join the accord or
risk losing this year's share of $11 billion in funding for mental
health and home care over the next 10 years.

"We are always open to good conversations and I had a great
conversation with Minister Goertzen that touched on this, and we will
continue to have a dialogue, and always keep the health needs of
Manitobans and all Canadians at the forefront," Philpott told
reporters. "We did not speak about any deadlines."

Philpott said that she and Goertzen talked about diabetes and opioid
issues, but would not say whether she offered funding Thursday as an
incentive to get Manitoba to sign the accord. "We didn't discuss any
specifics," she said.

Goertzen told the Free Press he met with Philpott for 45 minutes, but
wouldn't disclose what he characterized as private talks.

Manitoba is the last holdout to sign what Ottawa calls a health

"I'm not signing on to it because it's dangerous for health care,
dangerous for Manitobans," the premier told reporters at the end of

Earlier this spring, Pallister said he was prepared to sign the accord
if Ottawa gave Manitoba additional money for Indigenous health care,
particularly to combat diabetes and kidney disease, and if the federal
government guaranteed it would proceed with the "factory of the
future" research facility in Winnipeg. Pallister later said he wanted
additional federal money to deal with the opioid crisis.

Even if Pallister won't sign the accord, Manitoba will receive its
share of a three per cent increase in federal health transfer payments.

- - with files from Larry Kusch, Dylan Robertson
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