The dividing line between U.S. and Canada: pot legalization on federal table. Trudeau Liberals’ Marijuana Stance Is High-Risk, High-Reward
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has come out swinging early with his refreshing stand on marijuana laws in Canada. The Trudeau family scion In July said to o.canada.com that he favours legalizing marijuana — taxing and regulating it — rather than just decriminalization.
University of Ottawa history professor Michael Behiels drew a clear picture of Trudeau fils’ cannny strategy: “Trudeau is trying to bring in a whole new generation of young men and young women into the political process…[a]nd this is one way that he can do it, by addressing something that they apparently seem very interested in.”
This blogger writes: I met Justin Trudeau two weeks ago at his stop on the cross-country tour here in Surrey B.C, a riding of immigrants, many of whose parents got into Canada under prime minister PIerre Trudeau’s Family Reunification Program. So the name “Trudeau” sparks gold here. At the gathering I was hearing around me very little English, mostly Punjabi. OK, these are good people. They stoically bear the brunt of racism here, no denying.I’ve learned personally that our Hindu immigrants are the real “family values,” citizens.People of Humility and Hospitality.Still, so many are ESL citizens. So it goes…..
In 1969, during PIerre Trudeau’s first election campaign – the amazing days of “Trudeaumania”, when Pierre was a rock star – I shook Pierre Trudeau’s hand in a reception line. I wanted to repeat the ritual with Trudeau fils.
So…there I was surrounded by a sea of ESL citizens, I wanted to “connect” with Justin in a stand-out way. I walked up, shook his hand and said to him “Bonjour Justin. Biennevenue `a Surrey.” He did a quick double take – then came a response SO like what his quick-wittted Dad would have done. He took my hand in both of his and said “Thank-you.” English-to-French-to English. Our bilingual national arrangement. It was a gesture full of meaning.
He had me at that moment.
Justin’s declared intention to legalize marijuana in Canada makes him the first federal leader in Canadian history to bring pot to the House of Commons table. I admire his boldness, but I’m not surprised by it. His papa, prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, as an unelected justice minister in the Pearson ministry in 1969 boldly decriminalized homosexual acts practised between two consenting adults, declaring “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” The puckish need for shock value runs in the Trudeau family, clearly. And DEARLY!
Trudeau Senior pulled Canada kicking and screaming into the modern world of bilingualism, multicultuarlism and codified civil rights and freedoms. Will Junior be able to pull off the same around drug laws? I”d lay money on it.
I CAN’T WAIT to feel proud and modern again, as a Canadian.
When the Liberals made Justin Trudeau their new leader, it was a high-risk, high-reward decision. His support for marijuana legalization is no different.
The potential reward in pursuing legalization is not insignificant. Increasingly, the three major parties differentiate themselves from one another only by degrees. But with the Liberals’ new stance there is a stark contrast on what to do with the drug. New Democrats support decriminalization, while Conservatives are for the status quo. On this issue, the Liberals stand apart.
It allows the party to present themselves as forward-looking and in favour of smart-on-crime policies, as opposed to (what will undoubtedly be argued are) the timid and backward positions of the NDP and Tories. More importantly, it gives Liberals the potential to crowd New Democrats and the Greens out on this particular issue. NDP voters are, polls suggest, more likely to support legalization than decriminalization. And while the Greens support legalization, voters who feel this is an important issue may believe their vote would be better placed with a party that is more likely to be in a position to change the law.
Getting the youth vote to support the Liberals and actually head out to the polls is undoubtedly another part of the strategy, but there is no indication that middle-aged voters are any less supportive of legalization. It may not be a vote-driving issue for these Canadians, however. South of the border, it does seem that turnout was up in states where marijuana was a ballot issue. The goal may not be, then, to get younger voters on side with Liberals (it might be just as effective with older voters under the age of 55), but rather to give them a reason to get to the polls.
But will the legalization of marijuana be a major issue in the next federal election? That is where the risk comes in. It is hard to believe that 2015 will be the marijuana election, but Conservatives and New Democrats will almost certainly use it in their attacks against the Liberal leader. For the NDP, it gives them an opportunity to portray themselves as more reasonable and less radical than the Liberals, an essential strategy if they are to seriously challenge for government. With the NDP’s more middle-way position on marijuana, Thomas Mulcair can pose as the responsible leader in juxtaposition to the inexperienced Trudeau’s recklessness. The Liberal leader will need to flesh out the policy more during the campaign, and could be put on the spot on details.
For Conservatives, it is a perfect issue for their constituency. Their opposition to decriminalization or legalization puts them as the ‘tough on crime’ party. But while it may not be a number one issue for many, for those who are nevertheless uncomfortable with the idea of legalization — and these are primarily to be found among older voters who get out to the polls in big numbers — it could plant the seed of doubt that prevents them from casting a ballot for Trudeau.
The policy is a gamble that may or may not pay off in 2015. But the Liberals did not make Trudeau their leader to play it safe.