Feds won't extend July 1 marijuana deadline: Philpott
by: Nick Martin
"We did not speak about any deadlines" on the health-care accord, federal Health Minister Philpott said.
(Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Despite the laments of Premier Brian Pallister and other premiers, Ottawa is firm on its deadline: Canadians will be able to legally use recreational marijuana on July 1.
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, as requested by Pallister. He has been adamant that the deadline will come before Manitoba can be ready to cover all the health, justice, safety, sale and production issues that need to be met.
"I think it's fair to say that anything could become an issue": Tory leader Andrew Scheer.
(Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press files)
Provincial health minister Kelvin Goertzen: tight-lipped on conversation with federal counterpart.
(John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)
"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."
Asked about Manitoba's refusal to sign to the federal health accord, Philpott said she has given the order to direct hundreds of millions of dollars to Canada's provinces and territories for improved home care and mental health services --- to everywhere but Manitoba.
However, 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.
Philpott met Thursday with Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen --- but not with Premier Brian Pallister, who said recently he can "go forever" without signing what he contends is a bad health-care deal for Manitobans.
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 criminals."
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 that 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. "It's just another troubling sign that they're not actually working in a collaborative manner; that they're not working in partnership with different levels of government."
Scheer also agreed with Pallister's comments Wednesday, that legalizing marijuana amid NAFTA renegotiations could threaten the trade deal.
"I think it's fair to say that anything could become an issue," Scheer said. "They don't have a plan to make sure that that doesn't affect the negotiations."
Speaking about the health-care accord, Philpott said she has already signed off on distributing the money "in very short order" everywhere in Canada other than Manitoba.
"We've very recently come to a common understanding with all of the other provinces and territories on how ... 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.
"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.
Philpott said that she and Goertzen talked about diabetes and opioid issues here, 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 that he met with Philpott for 45 minutes, but won't disclose what he characterized as private talks.
Manitoba is the last holdout to sign what Ottawa calls a health accord --- Pallister won't use the word "accord" because he says no negotiations have taken place.
"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 June. "We can go forever because it's a bad deal, a dangerous deal."
Earlier this spring, Pallister said he was prepared to sign on to 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 also wanted additional federal money to deal with the opioid crisis.
Even if Pallister won't sign, Manitoba will still receive its share of a three per cent increase in federal health transfer payments. Pallister says Manitoba needs double that from Ottawa to meet Manitobans' health care needs.
--- with files from Larry Kusch, Dylan Robertson
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