Pubdate: Wed, 13 Sep 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Dylan Robertson
Page: A8


OTTAWA - The federal Liberals are refusing a Manitoba MP's request to
divulge Ottawa's cost estimates for regulating and policing
recreational marijuana, saying they're still working out the details.

"The government needs to be more upfront and tell people what it's
going to cost," Conservative MP Larry Maguire said.

On June 12, Maguire asked the parliamentary budget officer to probe
how much money federal departments believe they'll need to enforce new
laws that legalize marijuana, and to track associated public-health

In an Aug. 1 letter, the budget watchdog told Maguire he was facing
stiff resistance from the justice and health departments, as well as
Public Safety Canada.

All three confirmed they have cost estimates on hand, but won't
release them.

"All the information should be made public about it," PBO Jean-Denis
Frechette said in a Monday interview.

But the government says it can't provide the numbers - because it's
still working on its pot plan.

"There's so many different iterations of things at play," said Yves
Comeau, spokesman for Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor. "It
would not be productive, in my view, to share and make those public as
they go. It could lead the debate to different discussions."

Comeau said Ottawa is working with the provinces to understand their
plans, and tailoring cost estimates to what they hear.

He acknowledged MPs already are debating the legislation in committee
this week, but said they could easily ask the officials testifying for
the latest estimates.

"That I think is the right process. But us willingly going out to
issue any or all estimates that we're getting is not something that
we'd do."

Yet Maguire said that shows the government doesn't have clear plans
ahead of its July 1 legalization deadline.

This summer, Maguire held five public meetings in his Brandon-Souris
constituency about the issue. He said the roughly 250 attendees were
split on whether to legalize recreational cannabis, but almost
everyone wondered how much municipal and provincial governments will
have to spend.

"The clear consensus... was that the government didn't have their
homework done on this and needed another extension to make sure it was
before it went ahead. And that was the one clear thing from everyone
involved," he said.

The Liberals plan to spend $274 million on law enforcement over the
next five years. Of that money, $113.5 million would go to countering
organized crime and foreign marijuana. The other $161 million would go
to drug-screening training and devices for front-line officers, as
well as research public awareness campaigns. Just $81 million of
Friday's announced funding would be divvied up by all 13 provinces and
territories over the next five years, and Public Safety Canada won't
yet say how much each province is getting.
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MAP posted-by: Matt