The federal government is threatening to force a vote in the Senate to speed up the adoption of the marijuana-legalization bill, stating industry and governments need a clear timeline to a legal-cannabis market.
This government has never imposed time allocation in the Senate, but it says it will have no choice if Conservative senators use procedural tricks to delay the legislation.
In a speech on Tuesday, the government's representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, said he wants a vote to send Bill C-45 to committee before the start of a two-week break on March 1. He said that if he does not obtain all-party support for his proposal, he will move a motion to force a vote.
"I do, frankly, have some concern that partisan politics could affect our proceedings," Mr. Harder said. "While I certainly agree we need to take our time to do our job of sober second thought, any potential delay for the sake of delay would do a disservice to Canadians and to the culture here in this chamber."
The Senate is currently comprised of 41 independents, 33 Conservatives, 12 members of the independent Liberal caucus and five non-affiliated senators. It remains unknown whether the government has majority support for a time-allocation motion.
The government is publicly stating it wants to legalize cannabis by July. However, it has also said that industry and governments will need eight to 12 weeks to get ready after Bill C-45 is adopted in Parliament.
To meet the July deadline, Mr. Harder said the bill would have to go through the committee process in March and April before returning to the Senate for a final stage of debates and votes in May. Under this timeline, he said that "implementation [of Bill C-45] is possible this summer.
"The Senate is not bound by the government's publicly discussed timeline," he added. "However, I would urge this chamber to factor that approximate timeline into consideration in its deliberations, as the many stakeholders involved in cannabis legalization will reasonably want to prepare for implementation in an organized and deliberate fashion."
As he made his speech, Mr. Harder was interrupted on a number of occasions by Conservative senators who called on him to defend Bill C-45 instead of talking about his proposed timeline for the legislation.
"I would have preferred to hear the meat of the bill discussed rather than why we must proceed quickly or the threat of time allocation," Conservative Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen said.
The Conservatives have rejected attempts to move Bill C-45 quickly to committee, stating that a number of their members want to speak on the principle of the bill at the second reading stage.
"Usually there are fewer people who want to speak at this stage, but given the importance of the legislation, there are many people who have something to say," Conservative Senator Claude Carignan said.
Independent Senator Tony Dean, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, has accused Conservatives of using procedural tricks to drag out the debate.
"It seems to me, through a political lens, that the Conservatives wouldn't mind seeing time allocation because they could accuse the government of cutting off debate. It really is that silly," he said last week.
Mr. Harder is proposing that the bill be studied simultaneously by three Senate committees: social affairs, legal affairs and aboriginal peoples. Social affairs would be the lead committee and would set its own timeline. The two other committees would be asked to finish their work by April 19.
"I would anticipate senators on all three committees would stay in constructive communication regarding their respective timelines going forward and as they would no doubt share ongoing findings and perhaps attend each other's hearings," Mr. Harder said.