HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Opposition MPs Present Petition To Reintroduce
Pubdate: Thu, 09 May 2002
Source: Canadian Press (Canada Wire)
Copyright: 2002 The Canadian Press (CP)
Author: Louise Elliott, Canadian Press


OTTAWA - More than 80 opposition MPs from three parties are calling for 
reintroduction of a private member's bill in the Commons after it was 
defeated by what they say was a dirty government trick.

Through a petition presented Thursday in the Commons, 81 Alliance, Bloc 
Quebecois and NDP members asked Commons Speaker Peter Milliken to revive 
Alliance MP Keith Martin's bill to decriminalize marijuana. The Liberals 
set a dangerous precedent when they passed a motion to refer the bill to a 
committee without Martin's permission last month, NDP MP Bill Blaikie said 

"It could become the method by which the government prevents from coming to 
a vote those things they'd rather not have the House vote on," he said.

"This is the first time a votable bill has not been voted on at second 
reading without the permission of the member who is sponsoring the motion."

In the mid-1980s, Parliament reformed the system by which opposition bills 
and motions are selected and voted upon, Blaikie said.

Since that time they have been referred to a subcommittee for a decision, 
out of the reach of the government.

Alliance MP Ted White said the handling of Martin's bill set a dangerous 
precedent because it eliminated a check on government.

"Many of the measures we bring to the House as private member's bills or 
motions are related to us by constituents . . . or large sectors of society 
that feel government really is not moving on an issue," he said. "We do a 
disservice to our community and our constituents if we don't fight this."

Forty-one Alliance MPs signed the petition, 30 Bloc Quebecois, and 10 NDP 
members. Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP Leader Alexa McDonough were 
among those who signed.

Bloc MP Rheal Menard said Martin approached the six Liberal MPs who voted 
against the government's so-called poison-pill amendment, but they would 
not sign.

Some Conservative MPs disagreed with the Alliance about the petition, 
Menard said.

"There were arguments between some of the Conservative and Alliance 
members, and some of them didn't want to sign," he said.

Martin, who had worked on his bill for four years before the Liberals sent 
it to committee, grabbed the ceremonial mace of the Commons on April 17 to 
protest the move.

The House voted 173-49 to suspend Martin until he apologized for what he 
admitted was a premeditated act of civil disobedience. He later apologized 
for his breach of parliamentary decorum and was readmitted to the House.
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